> MOZART piano concertos 9, 21 Hough [JL]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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  Founder: Len Mullenger

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 21 in C major, K467
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No 9 in E flat, K271
Stephen Hough, piano
Hallé Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
Recorded Manchester, May 1987
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 575 1452 [58:58] Superbudget


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By virtue of its slow movement, the k467 Concerto in C major has become one of the most recorded of Mozart’s concertos ever since the film "Elvira Madigan" of 1967. It is a relatively mature work, whereas its partner here, k271, was written when Mozart was only twenty but is probably one of the most performed of the less mature concertos.

Many great pianists from Schnabel onwards have recorded k467 so competition is stiff. What we have here is a budget coupling from EMI which is reissuing these performances recorded in the Free Trade Hall Manchester in 1987. Stephen Hough has carved for himself a little niche in the market with the light concertos of Hummel, the recordings of which have been much admired; likewise with the Mendelssohn concertos. The Mozart concertos are, of course, in a different league.

The works have a depth to them, an intensity of feeling that is not just confined to their great slow movements. The Hallé/Hough partnership does not respond too convincingly to this aspect of the music. The delicate fleetness of Hough's playing that works so well in Hummel gave much pleasure to me but I felt more was required. Those who buy this disc for the "Elvira" slow movement of k467 may well be disappointed. The performance here would not perhaps provide the best case to back the implication in Peter Schaffer's play 'Amadeus' that Mozart was a conduit through which heavenly thoughts were delivered to humankind from above. However, there are good things. The Hallé provides a full orchestral sound that, under the sure direction of Bryden Thomson (also Hough’s partner in his Hummel recording), invests a sweep into the performance of k467 that helps to confirm the work as one of the most symphonic of the piano concertos. And Hough’s playing is always secure with many subtleties of touch that can delight. I kept feeling that his style would suit a fortepiano rendering accompanied by "original" instruments.

At the first appearance of this recording in 1988, Decca were marketing a rival budget disc of k467 (coupled with k414) with Radu Lupu in a performance from the 1970s. No longer available in that form, the well thought of performance of k467 is now incorporated into a bargain "Double Decca" Mozart miscellany. If good value is an issue then it is worth considering. However, there is much to recommend the Hough disc and the lesser known k271 is worth having, not least for its remarkable, expansive slow movement.

John Leeman


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