To make the most of Mozart's music, it is of fundamental importance to observe all the accentuations with great care.
It is very common for pianists to accentuate the first bar of a phrase while, on the contrary, very often the main accent of the phrase lies on the second bar. This is the case of the very first few bar in the soloist’s entrance of Mozart's Piano Concerto K 488 in A major that should sound as a sort of "upbeat", with the main accent on the second bar.
Of course, this shifting is sometimes written by composers, but very often it is suggested to us by the use of specific harmonies, that is from more dissonances and therefore from more musical tension.
Just like in this case, where in the second bar the main tonality is abandoned for a moment, causing greater harmonic tension.
Mozart’s original articulations are very important here. Many pianists do not pay particular attention to them and they play everything in an expressive but uniform way.
Mozart did not write here a unique slur, but many small slurs. This does not mean that the phrase should not sound uniform, on the contrary. These legature, on the other hand, differentiate each small impulse, and give variety of accentuation to the phrase which will have its own unitary form, but not flat.
Hence the importance of using an Urtext edition that has not altered the author's indications. Some older editions and revisions instead add long slurs on four-note passages, scale passages, etc.
The legato indications are placed by Mozart only on the most important, the most expressive notes, while the others will follow in a more relaxed way.
In the aforementioned passage the notes C sharp and D should not be played legato otherwise the composer’s indications in no way would be respected. The C sharp must therefore be faded, also favoring the support to the second bar.
Also in the second bar the notes are meticulously indicated two by two and therefore the first one has to be more accentuated than the second one.
Of course this also applies to the final notes of the phrase, which must be clearly faded, even if they are on the beat, because of the harmonic resolution.
As we know, in the piano long notes have a greater dynamic decay, because they last longer. When we face a legato made by a long note followed by other notes of lower value, the latter must be played with lower dynamic values, much softer, listening and collecting the final resonance.
We must therefore start from the score, not from the traditions, however authoritative they can be.
However, we must not only correctly carry out what is indicated by the author in terms of articulation, accentuation and harmonic tension. We must ask ourselves the reason for certain choices, for certain indications.
Why Mozart wasted time detailing all these small initial slurs, when he could easily have written nothing or made a single slur? If he did, he did it for a reason: let's try to understand it and to investigate the musical meaning of all this.
This is the starting point of every good interpreter.
Photo: Mozart Concerto K 488 Manuscript (ca. 1785)