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RECORDING OF THE MONTH

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto no.17 in G major K 453
Piano Concerto no. 21 in C major K467
Ewa Pobłocka (piano)
Leopoldinum (Wrocław Chamber Orchestra)/Jan Stanieda

rec. 29-30 April 1995, Bydgoszcz Philharmonic Concert Hall, Poland. DDD
CD ACCORD ACD 093-2 [56:22]


In the interesting notes with this disc, Bohdan Pociej writes perceptively of the joy that permeates Mozart’s music as being ‘… unrivalled by any other joy in the history of music’. Hard to disagree, particularly in performances as utterly beguiling as these. The mystery is why it has taken nearly ten years to get this disc published – that does seem an extraordinarily long time to wait. I have no answer to that yet, but shall try to find out from CD Accord.

In the meantime, suffice it to say that from the very first notes of K.453, this is an exceptional issue. Of course what we hear first is the orchestra, not the soloist, and Jan Stanienda and his players give the music an infectious and irresistible ‘lift’, aided by a perfect recording. The microphones are close enough to capture every last detail of orchestration, yet are never ‘up the noses’ of the players. And what players! ‘Leopoldinum’ is the adopted name of the Wrocław Chamber Orchestra from Poland, named after, as the booklet tells us, Aula Leopoldina at Wrocław University, the glorious Baroque hall where the orchestra gives its concerts. It is particularly satisfying that every player in the orchestra is listed by name in the booklet, for they are all superb artists, and, after all, this music is undoubtedly chamber music on a large scale.

As to the soloist, Ewa Pobłocka plays this music in the best possible way, that is to say in a completely natural manner totally devoid of sentimentality or ‘tweeness’, yet always subtle and sensitive to its inner workings. She is playing on a modern Steinway (don’t be confused, by the way, by Pobłocka’s billing as ‘fortepian/piano’ on the disc’s case – the ‘fortepian’ bit is clearly for our Polish readers only!), but has no difficulty in finding the right level for her playing. When it comes to balance in these concertos, it is so often the development sections that suffer. This is where the instrumentation is often at its most detailed, with the soloists often merely accompanying with passage-work of scales and arpeggios. Sadly, few pianists and even fewer producers seem aware of that, and focus on the soloist’s subordinate work, at the expense of the real business elsewhere. No danger of that here, and it’s wonderful!

Incidentally, the K.467 concerto contains, of course, that Andante. No amount of vulgar popularisation can take away the allure of this movement, and I have to say that this CD contains the most magical version I have heard. The secret, as so often, is the tempo, which is just a tiny bit slower than usual, so that the music floats in a truly dream-like way.

Of course this is an exceptionally competitive field, with so many distinguished performers on modern and period instruments represented on disc. Yet I believe that this is worthy to set alongside the very finest. These performances made me aware, yet again, that in Mozart’s concertos we have some of the greatest treasures, not just of music, but of the whole of Western civilisation.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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