The Rondo In A, K. 386, like K. 382, is one of Mozart’s early gems that is rarely heard. It may be a replacement for the finale of another concerto (in this case, K. 414, performed in October by COFE with soloist Andrew Hauze). It might also be the original version of K. 414’s finale. Or it may always have been intended as a completely independent piece, unrelated to K. 414 or any other concerto.
Until more evidence is uncovered, we can only guess as to its true origins.
If the origins and intent of K. 386 are obscure, the autograph manuscript and its history are even more bizarre, complex, and fascinating. The manuscript was sold in 1799 by Mozart’s widow Constanza to the music publisher J.A. Andre, but with the end of the piece missing. Somehow, still without an ending, it found its way to London in the 1830s, where it was auctioned off page by page (some pages even ripped in half) to many different people. A reduction of the piece, for solo piano, however, had been made by the Englishman CiprianI Potter (1792-1871), with his own ending. It was in this form that the piece was known for some 150 years.
During the last 60 years, scholars have discovered various pages and parts (but unfortunately not all) of Mozart’s manuscript in various places. And in 1980 the English scholar Alan Tyson discovered the ending! With the ending found but a few other parts of the piece still missing, Tyson, the Australian conductor Charles Mackerras, and the Viennese pianist Paul Badura-Skoda (one of my own pianistic mentors) collaborated on publishing a performing edition of the piece. It comprises more than 90% of Mozart’s original music, and it includes Mozart’s own ending! Our performance of K. 386 this evening is based on this edition. –James Freeman