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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
The Great Piano Concertos, Volume 3.

Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major, K271 Jeunehomme (1777)
Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K449 (1784)
Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat major, K450 (1784)
Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K449 (1784)
Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, K456 (1784)
Rondo in D major, K382 (1782)
Mitsuko Uchida (piano)
English Chamber Orchestra/Jeffrey Tate
recorded in St. John’s Smith Square, London, July 1986 ( K453), May 1987 (K477) May 1988 (K456) October 1989 (K450) February 1990 (K171 and K382) DDD
PHILIPS 473 313-2 [2CDs: 147.09]
This twofer is Volume 3 in Mitsuko Uchida / Jeffery Tate’s re-release of part of their complete cycle of the Mozart Piano Concerti. Volumes 1 and 2 containing the later, perhaps more popular concerti have already been issued to high acclaim. This most recent issue contains more relatively unfamiliar works, but is no less enjoyable for that.

Anyone who has been collecting these twofers will know what to expect: modern, very truthful recordings of one of the pre-eminent Mozart pianists of the day, beautifully accompanied by an orchestra steeped in the playing of the Master, directed by a Mozart expert. Could we wish for anything better – probably not.

The competition is severe, and the only performers of these works, which I might put in front of these recordings, are those of Murray Perahia, but as far as I am aware these are available only as a complete set or as single discs. Cost-wise therefore the Philips discs have the competitive edge and the performances will give just as much pleasure.

If indeed you are keen on buying the favourite Piano Concerti of Mozart, for the price of three full price CDs you can get them all, with the earlier Rondo thrown in as a bonus.

The first on this set is the Jeunehomme Concerto which is reckoned to be the first of Mozart’s mature piano concerti. Only two or more years before this work, Mozart had completed his violin concerti, No.1 in 1773, and the remaining 4 in 1775. What a difference two years make to the young composer. The opening orchestral tutti with the participation of the piano from the second bar is much more assured and is arresting in a way that none of the Violin Concerti could ever be. Here the partnership between conductor and soloist is magical, and the very clear recording picks up every nuance. The name of the Concerto by the way, comes from the dedication – the original performer was a Mlle Jeunehomme.

After this initial concerto, we move on to the series of mature early concerti, all of which I enjoy greatly and would be hard pressed to choose the best. Encouraged by the success of the early works, Mozart embarked on creating the series of concerti from No. 14 to No. 27, with the quality of work increasing as time progressed. Mitsuko Uchida clearly has the full command of these works and her interpretations have only one possible shortcoming compared with Murray Perahia on Sony. This is a sense of reticence in her playing compared with her American competitor. I do not see this as a shortcoming, as these masterpieces are sufficiently robust to be played in either fashion. A superb set.

John Phillips

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