Mozart wrote the Rondo in D (more a set of variations than a true rondo) shortly after arriving in Vienna in 1782, following his bitter departure from his family in Salzburg, He used it immediately as a replacement for the original final movement of his Concerto in D, K. 175, written nine years earlier in 1773. We can only guess why he did this. Possibly he was anxious to charm his new audiences with a finale that was more straight froward and less “learned” than the somewhat contrapuntal original finale of K. 175. Combined with the first two movements of K. 175 and also as an independent piece, he played it often in Vienna and elsewhere, and it quickly became one of his most popular pieces. It was in fact one of the very few works that was published during his lifetime.
The K. 175 concerto – for which Mozart apparently wrote the Rondo K. 382 – is now usually numbered as his 5th piano concerto. It was actually his first original piano concerto. Nos. 1-4 are all arrangements of pieces for solo keyboard by other composers, probably intended as preliminary exercises in the art of writing concertos, and very likely under his father’s watchful eye. The fact that this concerto written at age 17, combined with the K. 382 Rondo, became one Mozart’s most well known and admired works during his lifetime is yet another reminder of the remarkable genius that lies behind so many of his early works – works that like K. 382 and 386 are now rarely performed.