18 Jul 2023

MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 1

by Jeff Counts

Mozart was either 17 years old in 1773 or 19 in 1775 when his 1st Violin Concerto was composed. History recalls Mozart so fondly as a pianist that we often forget he was also a suburb violinist. He began his string studies at the age of six and performed a concerto just one year later for the Archbishop of Salzburg. It clearly must have been his precocious violin playing (rather than his keyboard skills) that earned him employment as concertmaster in the court of a later Salzburg Archbishop, one Count Hieronymus Colloredo. Theirs was not an easy relationship, but Mozart was able to stay productive as a composer despite it, and the five violin concerti Mozart wrote during that tough period (four of them, at least, within a single year) show none of the professional discomfort he endured. We are, however, left to assume that the end of his job in the Salzburg court occasioned the end of his association with the violin as a professional performer, since he left the genre untouched after No. 5. Records of his possessions at the time of his death show that he no longer even owned a violin. We can’t definitively place Concerto No. 1 in 1775 with the others, but the evidence that it was written two years prior is just as unreliable. For example, an anecdote that recalls Mozart borrowing a violin to perform Concerto No. 1 in 1773 when his organ recital was put off due to technical problems is intriguing, but ultimately inconclusive. Less spurious perhaps is the K. 269 Rondo in B-flat that was reportedly written to replace the finale of the concerto, but most performers choose to present the score as originally written.   

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart