Artur Schnabel’s Cadenzas for Mozart Piano Concertos K. 467, K. 482, K. 491, K. 503


The latest music publication by the Schnabel Music Foundation is about to hit the shelves: Pianist Sarah Cahill has written an introduction for the cadenzas.
A recent Facebook post by Pianist and Radio host James Irsay reads as follows:

Today Ann and Fran√ßois presented me with a pre-release copy of her grandfather’s cadenzas to four Mozart concertos, the first ever edition. Most striking, as those familiar with Artur Schnabel’s recording will know, is the cadenza to the first movement of the c minor, no. 24 K491. How appropriate that this movement of this concerto gets the boldest, most imaginative treatment; the movement utilizes all 12 notes of the chromatic scale before the theme’s first statement is completed, and we’re not talking about any actual chromatic scales here. Inspired by Mozart’s music, Schnabel uses all 12 notes in about 1 1/2 measures of the cadenza, measure 7 til about half of m.8. That sets the tone (in a manner of speaking) for the whole cadenza.

Interesting how, in his recording with Susskind, Schnabel brings out the middle notes of the syncopated chords of the cadenza’s opening to emphasize the descending melodic “cells”, which are repeated in the LH octaves. That’s his first brilliant stroke – to imitate the orchestra’s lead-in before the cadenza’s beginning.

Many consider this cadenza “weird’, “far out”, and ill-suited to Mozart’s music. But the craft applied by Schnabel in its composition, the molecular cohesion of Mozart’s essential building blocks, binding every measure to the next, renders the cadenza perfectly consistent and meaningful in the context of Mozart’s brilliant first movement. The vital inner workings are a perfect match with Mozart’s Allegro, giving the material new breadth. And of course Artur Schnabel kicks it… totally SICK perfomance of that cadenza !! (“Sick” in a good way, need I mention…)

Yes, the cadenza’s concluding emphasis on the notes B and E flat (the ear hears B and D sharp), creating the expectancy of a return in e minor, provide a … well…. unusual orchestral re-entry in c minor… now that’s what we call fearlessly holding to one’s vision; we salute you, Artur Schnabel!

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