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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concerto for Two Pianos in E flat major, KV 365 * (?1779) [23:41]
Concerto for Three Pianos in F major, KV 242 ** (1776) [22:04]
Piano Concerto in D minor, KV 466 ***  (1785) [32:31]
Daniel Barenboim, George Solti (pianos), English Chamber Orchestra; ** András Schiff, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Georg Solti (pianos), English Chamber Orchestra; *** Sir Georg Solti (piano), English Chamber Orchestra
rec. Walthamstow Town Hall, London, June 1989
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 2451 [78:16]

 

 

Involving, as it does, three master musicians and a fine chamber orchestra this was never likely to be be other than rewarding. It may not correspond with the ways of playing Mozart at the beginning of the twenty-first century which are fashionable at the beginning of the twenty-first century, but it has virtues – such as high intelligence, sympathy, certainty of purpose, grace, alertness of interplay – which transcend questions of performance practice.

Looking at the names of the pianists above, we might be surprised by the presence of Sir Georg Solti, so used are we to thinking of him as a conductor. But the young Solti appeared in public as a pianist from the age of twelve and went on to study piano in Budapest, with Dohnányi and Bartok. His early ambition was to make a career as a pianist, though he soon obtained posts as assistant, at the Salzburg Festival, to Walter and Toscanini. But the rise of anti-semitism encouraged a move to Switzerland – where, in 1942, he won the Geneva International Competition. Conducting, however, gradually took over. When, in the 1980s he began to play the piano in public again – he recorded with Murray Perahia as well as with Barenboim and Schiff and made some chamber music recordings – he was rarely found wanting.

The earliest of these three works, the Concerto for Three Pianos, was written for “Her Excellency, her Ladyship, the Countess Lodron ... and her daughters, their Ladyships the Countess Aloysia and Giuseppa”, to quote Mozart’s own inscription on a presentation copy of the score. Two of the parts are fairly demanding, the third – designed for the younger of the two daughters – rather simpler. There is some attractive counterpoint in the opening allegro and the adagio is tuneful and gently lyrical. The rondo which concludes the work allows each pianist to have a turn in the limelight. The whole is a skilful exercise in tact, in writing for specific non-professional performers and for a specific occasion without compromising the nature of the composer’s own musical imagination. Messrs Schiff, Barenboim and Solti play fluently, their interplay assured and sensitive, their rhythms attractively dancing in the third movement. At times the sound of three modern grands does, it must be admitted, does seem rather too large and the same might be said for the sound of the ECO’s strings. But the ear adjusts and there is a great deal to enjoy.

The Concerto for two Pianos makes fair demands on both its soloists, who were originally probably Mozart and his sister Nannerl. The parts are equally rich, there being no sense of first and second voices here. It is a substantial, lengthy work, in which the opening allegro begins with an orchestral introduction of some length before both pianos enter. The sharing of themes between the two pianos, here and in later movements, calls for some exact teamwork and careful listening – both of which are much in evidence here. The performance seems a little quicker than some that I have heard, but it coheres admirably and the rhythms are crisp and precise throughout. The modern grand pianos seem more appropriate here, in a work more powerful and less galant than the earlier Concerto for Three Pianos.

Solti is the soloist in KV 466, Piano Concerto no. 20. Beethoven played and studied this concerto and was surely influenced by it. It has a tragic intensity in places, kits D minor materials seeming to anticipate Don Giovanni. Much of the string writing is complex and has an emotional expressiveness relatively new in Mozart’s work. Indeed, there is a marked degree of emotional intensity to the whole concerto, to which Solti largely does justice. At times Solti’s fingering occasionally seem very slightly stiff and lacking the very highest degree of panache and now and then his rubato is a bit intrusive. By the very highest standards – such as those set by, say, Perahia, also with the ECO or Brendel with the Acdemy of St. Martin’s in the Fields – this performance falls just a little short. But it remains thoroughly enjoyable, as does the whole of this well-recorded CD.

Glyn Pursglove

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