Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds was one of the first pieces of chamber music to elevate the status of wind instruments. Apart from the flute, wind instruments were generally thought of as crude and unsophisticated, and were therefore excluded from the refined venues where chamber music was performed.
These instruments, however, were Mozart’s favourites, and his role of advocate has resulted in an ongoing legacy. In this work, they are combined with Mozart’s preferred solo instrument, the piano (performed by the composer himself at the work’s premiere). The result, according to Mozart, was outstanding. In a letter to his father he wrote, “For my part, I consider it the best thing that I have written as yet in all my life… I wish you could have heard it, and how beautifully it was performed!”.
The Quintet for Piano and Winds was written when Mozart was 28, during what was probably the most productive and successful period of his life. In the same year he also wrote six piano concertos, and the influence of this genre is evident in both the structure of the work and the piano’s dominant role. In turn, the Quintet’s influence can be heard in Mozart’s later piano concertos.
In the first movement, most of the themes are introduced by the piano, and playfully mimicked and varied by the winds. The second movement is gentle and refined, while the third movement’s flourishes flaunt each instrument’s gifts.