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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Great Piano Concertos - Volume IV

Piano Concerto No. 5 in D, K 175 (1773) [24.00]
Malcolm Frager (Steinway piano)
Orchestra della Radiodiffusione della Svizzera Italiana/Marc Andreae
rec. Teatro Bibiena, Mantua, Italy, 19 April 1989
Piano Concerto No. 8 in D, K 246 (1776) [22.51]
Christian Zacharias (Steinway piano)
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart/Gianluigi Gelmetti
rec. Schwetzingen Palace, Schwetzingen, Germany, 17 May 1989
Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K. 453 (1784) [32.12]
Dezsö Ránki (Steinway piano w/o lid)
English Chamber Orchestra/Jeffrey Tate
rec. Imperial Palace of Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria, 15 November 1990
Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K 595 (1791) [31.37]
Aleksandar Madzar (Bösendorfer piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/André Previn
rec. Imperial Palace of Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria, 29 November 1990
Notes In English, Deutsch, Français.
NTSC 4:3. 48/16 PCM 2.0, AC-3/Dolby Digital 5.1, dts 5.1. region code 0 dvd-9
EUROARTS DVD 2010248 [120.00]


Previously released volumes in this series:
Volume I: Concertos Nos. 9, 12, 26. DVD 2010218
Volume II: Concertos Nos. 1, 4, 23. DVD 2010228
Volume III; Concertos Nos. 6, 19, 20. DVD 2010238
Comparison Video Recordings:
Concerto No. 8 Christian Zacharias, Gelmetti, Stuttgart RSO Laserdisk
Comparison Audio Recordings:
Concerto No. 5 Murray Perahia, ECO [ADD] Sony MK 37267
Concerto No. 5 Han, Freeman, Brilliant Classics Box
Concerto No. 5 Roderick Simpson, synthesizer. Initium CD A007
Concerto No. 8 Murray Perahia, ECO Sony SX12K 46441
Concerto No. 17 Murray Perahia, ECO [ADD] Sony MK36686
Concerto No. 17 Artur Rubinstein, Alfred Wallenstein, [ADD] RCA SO RCA/BMG/Sony
Concerto No. 17 Matthias Kirschenreit, Beerman, Bamberger SO/Bayerische PO. Arte Nova 82876 64008 2
Concerto No. 27 Christian Zacharias, Wand, EMI CZS 7 67561-2
Concerto No. 27 Christian Zacharias, Lausanne CO MDG 340 1182-2
Concerto No. 27 Daniel Barenboim, BPO Warner Apex 2564 60679-2
Concerto No. 27 Murray Perahia, COE Sony SK 46485

These are in many ways excellent video recordings of these concertos. First, the musical performances are of the highest standard, in at least one case the very best available. Also the video direction concentrates on presenting the players making music; there are no sunsets or flowers or adorable children, nor even abstract, out-of-focus shots of the musical instruments. Finally, the sound quality is first rate, better than CD sound.

This idea of a complete set of Mozart concertos with various conductors and soloists is not new. Vox issued such a set on LPs many years ago, of uneven quality. The best sound-only complete recordings of the Mozart concertos to my taste are the Perahia/ECO on Sony and the Han/Freeman on Brilliant Classics. Jeffrey Tate has issued a complete set with Mitsuko Uchida, but to my taste Uchida adopts the wrong style for Mozart, playing with too much rubato and pedal; I do not like any of the performances in that set - Uchida appears on Volume 1 of this series, however. So it is a pleasure to see Tate, a superb conductor with many excellent recordings to his credit, here paired with a pianist with a style that better fits the music.

This "Concerto No. 5" was in fact Mozartís first original concerto, the first four being arrangements of other menís solo keyboard music written in collaboration with his father, composition exercises really. In 1773 Mozart was unfamiliar with the fortepiano and the work was certainly written at the harpsichord,* The original score was for small orchestra and included baroque trumpets clearly marked in the score "clarino" which means that they are to be played to sound an octave higher than noted, with the result that the whole piece takes on an excited air of Baroque celebration. In the ensuing years this work was one of Mozartís favorite among his concertos and he played it on the fortepiano many times during his concert career. Some time during the next decade he wrote out some additional wind parts. In 1782 he wrote what most critics believe was a new last movement and from there on he played the work with this new scoring and the new movement, which has since come down to us as the Rondo in C, K382, now usually considered a separate work. Mozart also wrote out cadenzas for the first two movements and for K382, but not for the original last movement which most critics believe he no longer played. Most critics believe that it was also at this time that the original clarino trumpet scoring began to be ignored and the trumpets played at noted pitch. I note that in this recording there are four trumpets playing at noted pitch. Two trumpets would be sufficient if they played clarino range.

Almost all modern recordings use the original last movement. Also most modern editions extend the range of the keyboard part to fit a modern piano, since Mozart had had to cramp some phrases in the original to get them to fit the smaller keyboard of the harpsichord. Therefore it is possible for various modern performances of this work to use different scores. Roderick Simpson in his synthesizer performance correctly presents the full original scoring, utilizing a small fortepiano for the keyboard part. In the case of this video recording one can see that there are no flutes playing, but two oboes and two horns.

Malcolm Frager has recorded a fine performance of the fiendishly difficult Strauss Burleske, and watching him perform Mozart with a pixie grin on his face shows that his awesome virtuosity is joined with a sense of humor as well as a sense of proportion. He scales his large technique perfectly to fit this music. Mark Andreae is magisterial and gives the music the proper festive mood, emphasizing the trumpets.

The Concerto No. 8 was composed by Mozart in April of 1776 specifically to be easy to play and to memorize, in the "easy" white-key key of C Major, for use by his students, and it was also used by Mozartís sister for her keyboard students. To my mind, Christian Zacharias is the finest Mozart ensemble interpreter of our time and this version of No. 8 on 12" laserdisk has long been my favorite performance. Also on that laserdisk is No. 17, but that recording has not at this time been scheduled for release as part of this series. As both of our laserdisk players have required repairs, and as one now begins to show clear signs of wearing out, and, as a new one, if available, would cost as much as five DVD players, it is good to see this classic performance now available on the new DVD format which looks like it will last at least as long as I do.

Here the chubby, jolly, Gelmetti was one of the biggest hams on the podium, but later after he lost weight his demeanor became more rugged, suggesting perhaps that he had been ill, or fallen in love, which is much the same thing. For whatever reason, in his most recent photographs he bears a striking resemblance to Valery Gergiev.

To anyone who lived in Los Angeles during his tenure as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra the name Alfred Wallenstein was always spoken with a sneer as his regime was distinguished by consistent tediously mediocre and incompetent playing. Even guest conductors found the orchestra often unable to play together or in tune, never mind with anything resembling emotion or style**. Yet for recordings, particularly with Artur Rubinstein, Wallenstein drew upon previously unseen resources and those who know only his recordings must think of him as not merely competent but distinguished. May we all be so fortunate as to be judged by history solely by the best that we can do.

At any rate in his collection of late Mozart piano concertos, including No. 17, recorded by RCA, Rubinsteinís legendary geniality is combined with his superb sense of drama to produce consistent delight and brilliance. His piano tone is exactly right, the interaction with the orchestra exemplary. Many will find these performances their overall favorites and everyone, even original instrument snobs, will find them enjoyable and should seek them out.

For those who prefer a more authentic approach, the Matthias Kirschenreit disk of No. 17 on Arte Nova is also exceptional in both sound and performance. This six year old disk is labelled "Volume 1" but with no follow-up we must be pessimistic about hearing any more Mozart from these artists.

From Mozartís first concerto to his last: The Concerto No. 27, K595, was finished months before his death and his performance of it was his final public appearance. Here the only textual problem is six bars (47 - 53) in the first movement which, due to a printerís misinterpreting one of Mozartís marginal corrections, were not included in the published edition; it was not restored until the Neue Mozart Ausgabe. We may be sure that a performance which includes these bars, such as this one, is from a carefully prepared edition.

André Previn has shown himself to be, among many other talents, a skilled Mozart performer, and here we see his minimalist, workmanlike stick technique working to great advantage. Aleksandar Madzar mugs shamelessly for the camera, but comes across as a pleasant, earnest young man, and plays magnificently and with great feeling with nothing Ė audible - overdone.

Comparing the handful of recordings of Concerto No. 27 in my recommended list is like comparing rubies and sapphires, a task I am not sure Iím up to. All of these recordings contain the elusive bars updated from the Neue Mozart Ausgabe. I confess a slight preference for the Zacharias MDG disk both in sound and performance. This is labeled "Volume 1." Volume 2 was released in 2005, but there is no hint of a Volume 3 or any further numbers in the set which, if completed, would seem to be the best Mozart Piano Concerto series ever done. However, we must also watch for the stalled Matthias Kirschenreit set on Arte Nova. If the promise of his No. 17 is ever carried forth that may end up being the best Mozart Piano Concerto set ever done. The hapless collector would have no choice but to buy them both. After you buy this DVD, of course.

*So says John Irving, Mozartís Piano Concertos, 2003, Ashgate Publishing Ltd., ISBN 0-7546-0707-0. "Not so," says Roderick Simpson, "the Mozarts had a pianoforte in the household from 1772. Irving, et al., have misinterpreted the early letters." Simpson also avows that the Rondo K 382 was not intended to replace the original third movement, but to serve as an encore and be played after the concertoís original three movements. Simpson is an oboist, and points out that oboists can also play flute, and did so in Vienna at this time, so the so called additional flute parts were to be played by the oboists already sitting in the orchestra. Simpson also insists that clarino playing was common in Vienna until 1800. Check out his website, www.InitiumCD.com.

**The coming of Eduard van Beinum was a sunrise, a revolution, a revelation. Those same orchestral players all of a sudden sounded GOOD! Yet we noticed that when performing with the LAPO van Beinum used slower tempi than when recording the same pieces with the Concertgebouw.

Paul Shoemaker

 



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