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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano concerto no. 6 in B flat major, K.238 [20.03]
Piano concerto no. 15 in B flat major, K.450 [24.55]
Piano concerto no. 27 in B flat major, K.595 [31.35]
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano and director)
Recorded live at the Stefaniensaal, Graz, on 5-6 July 2005. DDD
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62259-2 [76.48]


As Lindsay Kemp points out in his accompanying notes to this release the key of B flat major was for Mozart one of happiness. This is readily reflected in the readings given here by Aimard and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe of three of the four Mozart wrote in this key.

As ever with Aimard there is scrupulous preparation and intelligence in the phrasing of the piano part, but not having heard him in the role of director before I was interested in how he might approach this. Wisely, perhaps, the COE was chosen as Aimard has previously worked with them (Beethoven concerti with Harnoncourt), so at least there was some common ground to work from. The COE also have a history on disc and in concert of working soloist-directors, a key point as these recordings derive from live performances. My findings were that his direction, whilst not standing out for the wrong reasons, made its points gently felt. He feels the genial wit within the works and does not make them into something they are not. All three concerti fare well orchestrally: with K.238 the opening is full, however things almost immediately get turned down a notch or two. In fact, my one real complaint about the orchestra can be attributed to the recording that makes them at times a little too distant. Whilst there are nice things particularly in the brass and woodwind phrasing, overall I could have done with the merest touch more presence and body throughout.

All of which might leave the impression that these are performances in which the piano takes centre stage, which it does, yet it never hogs the limelight unduly. The articulation is lithe, crisp and makes much in an understated way of the internal dynamics that the soloist’s part contains in all three works.  Aimard, whilst not averse to letting the music have its natural flow, pushes things along reasonably with resolutely modern ears without sacrificing the role of dynamic pauses.  That said he too has the sense to let Mozart’s ability to surprise emerge – the minor key episode of the K.238 opening movement development, for example.

Where timings are concerned K.595 comes in mid way between Haskil and Fricsay’s 29’24” and Gilels and Böhm’s 32’59”, and as a whole the performance might be taken as a medium course between the two other styles of interpretations. Only in the Larghetto does Aimard suggest anything like as much “nostalgic introspection” (Kemp’s phrase) as Gilels, but he is not as indulgent about it.

Whatever your preferences when it comes to Mozart concerti, these are intelligent performances well given and are sure to offer pleasure. Now I think of it, has Aimard ever recorded a disc that didn’t offer ample rewards for the listener? Not that I am aware of.

Evan Dickerson



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