The story of the piano concerto really starts with Mozart. He developed for the concerto the same degree of mastery that Haydn had won for the symphony or the string quartet, and transformed it almost beyond recognition. While no two of the piano concertos are quite alike, they do of course have many features in common. The orchestral exposition remains in the tonic; the piano then comes in and explores the principal material together with the orchestra in a conversational style. After the development and recapitulation sections, the orchestra comes to an inconclusive stop in the form of a 6/4 chord at the dominant; the soloist improvises a cadenza, after which there is a brief coda. The slow middle movement is likely to be in sonata or variation form; the finale may also be one of the two just mentioned, but is usually a rondo.
Almost all of the more important concertos were written after Mozart’s move to Vienna, to be performed at his own subscription concert series there. The concertos Nos. 14-25 were written in a period of creativity that has certainly never been surpassed in piano concerto production, lasting from February 1784 to December 1786.