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Brana Records 

Leopold KOZELUCH (1747-1818)
Piano Concerto in D major [30.43]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.21 in C major K467 (1785) [28.45]
Felicja Blumental (piano)
The Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg/Leopold Hager, recorded 1970 (Kozeluch)
Prague New Chamber Orchestra/Alberto Zedda, recorded 1968 (Mozart)
BRANA BR0027 [59.27]

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The Bohemian Kozeluch (properly I suppose Koželuh, though he spent his active composing career in the Imperial hub of Vienna) was born Jan Antonin, the same name as his then better-known cousin, the Prague Kapellmeister. So he changed his name to Leopold, studied with his august cousin and with Dusek [or Dusík] and gravitated to Vienna where he gradually rose to the eminence of a position as Court Composer. His relationship with Mozart seems to have been prickly, at least on Mozart’s side, though it’s true to say that neither Beethoven nor Haydn much cared for the Bohemian and one should really take Haydn as a barometer in these matters.

Personalities aside we have become very slightly better acquainted with his music over the years – but not much. The oratorio Moses in Egypt has been recorded by CPO and some Divertimenti (dull) have been done by Orfeo as well. The Clarinet Concerto has been recorded by Emma Johnson for ASV. In its formality and reliance on classical models it makes for not dissimilar bedfellows with the Piano Concerto in D major. This was disced, as Americans like to say, back in 1970 by that inveterate truffler, the late Polish pianist Felicja Blumental, many of whose resurrected Brana discs I have reviewed here.

This is a worthwhile disinterment. Sometimes those 1960s/early 70s Vox and similar company LPs were muddy and subfusc but here we have the decent Mozarteum Orchestra under the more than decent Leopold Hager (whose unlikely-seeming LP box set of British music with the Luxembourg Radio Symphony Orchestrastill sits on my shelves). There’s a big first movement, pleasant, classical, Viennese, with a great deal of room left for soloistic musing. The concerto was actually written for his blind pupil, Marie Therese von Paradis – you may well know her strikingly beautiful Sicilienne – and it may account for the relatively straightforward rather sectional nature of the work, somewhat repetitious, but sporting a limpid slow movement with forward-looking Romantic hints. Deftly the orchestral accompaniment is relaxed and discreet, though there’s a taut, springy Haydn-esque finale.

There’s a modern alternative should such a thing appeal though I’ve not heard it - Novalis 150 160-2 with Karl-Andreas Kolly and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra under Paul Goodwin and this is coupled with two symphonies by Kozeluch.

The Mozart Concerto will be of less interest given that it’s the C major. But her association with Alberto Zedda and his zesty little Prague band was generally a good one and so it proves here to a large degree. The recording however does for the horns unfortunately – very muddy – and also for the boomy, swirling percussion and there’s a hapless edit at 2.27 in the first movement. The piano is also too closely recorded, an invariable problem, and this emphasises some heaviness in the solo playing, especially her left hand. This together with some lack of heft and impetus in tuttis rather hobbles this recording I’m afraid.

It’s for the Kozeluch that this is most interesting, though the contemporary CD on Novalis is the first port of call I would suppose. This is another disc very much for Blumental’s admirers. It’s good to see rather more extensive sleeve notes from Brana and small, captioned photographs though I could have done without the excursion into Elvira Madigan territory. Has anyone actually ever seen it?

Jonathan Woolf 



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