Given the chronological separation of Mozart's final piano concertos, K. 537 and K. 595, from his extraordinary sequence of 15 piano concertos of 1782-86 (K. 413-503), it is no surprise that critics have continually stressed stylistic and affective departures from the composer's norm. But the stylistic significance of these final concertos remains fundamentally misunderstood. In spite of sharply contrasting characteristics——ostentatious virtuosity in K. 537 and carefully measured writing in K. 595——these works are, in fact, kindred spirits. In both concertos Mozart experiments with the introduction of abrupt juxtapositions of harmonically contrasting material while avoiding the outright opposition of piano and orchestral forces evident in his earlier Viennese first movements; with piano figuration, omitting it when expected or reconstituting it at important formal junctures; and with unexpected thematic and harmonic disjunctions. While Mozart's harmonic experimentation in K. 537 and 595 can be partially explained in general stylistic terms, given similarities to passages in the last three symphonies, and considered representative of the "bizarre tonal sequences" and "striking modulations" often remarked upon by Mozart's contemporaries, it cannot be attributed to a fundamental shift in the composer's "world view." Rather, the complementary nature of radicalism and innovation in the two first movements in particular——K. 537 in the orchestral and solo expositions and recapitulation and K. 595 in the development——reveals these final concertos as thoroughly pragmatic and systematic essays in stylistic reinvention.
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