Do the offspring of famous
composers tend to have great musical skills and inspiration?
Usually not, but Franz Xaver Mozart
is among the exceptions. To be honest, although I knew that
Franz Xaver was Wolfgang's son, I
had no idea that his music is so compelling with many striking
similarities to his father's.
was only four months old when his father died, leaving his musical
education to his mother Constanze
who ensured that he received excellent training starting at
two years of age. Teachers of the young Mozart included some
illustrious composers of the time such as Hummel, Haydn and
the ever-suspicious Salieri. As time
progressed, Franz Xaver attained a highly successful musical career and was
especially valued as a pedagogue. That he never achieved the
popularity of his father is understandable. However, the two
piano concertos on this Novalis disc reveal a superb composer whose relative neglect
is very disappointing.
I mentioned earlier that the
music of the son bears a striking resemblance to his father's.
This is most noticeable in the silky-smooth orchestration/piano
parts and the perfect balance between the piano and orchestra.
At all times the music flows with a graceful elasticity reminiscent
of Wolfgang, and the aesthetics and constant supply of melodic
material are also similar. Actually, I wouldn't flinch if told
that the two Franz Xaver Piano Concertos
were really composed by Wolfgang during the period in which
he wrote his Piano Concertos Nos. 11-13.
Both Franz Xaver piano concertos are of an upbeat nature, although the
1st Movement of Op. 25 possesses a more serious demeanor
than its Op. 14 counterpart. With few exceptions, each outer
movement is delightful and energized. Musical arguments are
not made from deep in the soul, but they sound natural and definitely
progress with logic and wonderful harmony. The slow inner movements
show abundant poignancy, about on the same level as Wolfgang's
music in the early 1780s.
The obscurity of Franz Xaver's music is matched by that of the INSO Lemberg, conductor Gunhard Mattes,
and pianist Henri Sigfridsson. Obscurity
aside, these performances are exemplary in all respects. The
playing is always supple, crisp, and exuberant in the outer
movements, while the performers adapt well to the slower and
sadder inner movements. Particularly impressive are the performances
of Sigfridsson who gives each work
the fluid and organic treatment so necessary to bring out the
composer's idiom. I don't know how Sigfridsson
would fare in a dramatic Mozart concerto, but the two here fit
him like a glove.
soundstage is excellent, although a shade on the dry side. The
piano displays ample bloom, and the conversations between piano
and orchestra are well projected and detailed. The orchestral
sound is slightly restricted, but not damagingly so. Those who
insist on the rich orchestral sound that we get from the Chandos
or Telarc could have a problem with
the Novalis sound.
Concerning alternative recordings,
there is a disc on Koch Schwann that pairs the two concertos.
It is conducted by Ronald Bader with Klaus Hellwig
on piano. These are fine performances, but I prefer Mattes and
company for their lighter and more rhythmically active treatment
of the music. These distinctions are perhaps academic, because
I can find no evidence that the Koch disc from the early 1990s
is currently in print.
In conclusion, anyone who treasures
the piano concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart will surely be
delighted to encounter those of his son Franz Xaver.
Be assured that these performances do full justice to the composer,
and I heartily recommend that readers investigate this very