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Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto no 21 in C major K467 (1785) [27:41]
Piano Concerto no 25 in C major K503 (1786) [31:23]
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis
rec. London, June 1972, ADD PHILIPS
ROSETTE COLLECTION476 5316 [59:33]
assumes a special distinction given the appearance of this
recording in the “Rosette Collection” and on this occasion
the appellation is entirely correct. These are quite simply
delightful and distinguished accounts, played with real distinction,
feeling, articulation and awareness. Kovacevich is on top
form - whether playing Mozart’s notes or those of his own
devising for the cadenzas - and is ably supported by an alert
and sensitive orchestra.
no 21, it seems, baffled the composer’s father Leopold on
its first appearance who remarked: “…astonishingly difficult…several
passages simply do not harmonise unless one hears all the
he was taken aback by the expert use of discord within a
framework of counterpoint, or indeed by the fact that this
opening movement presents no less than eight ideas capable,
indeed worthy, of intricate development.
the wealth of possibilities certainly does not baffle these
artists, beginning as they do with an elegant rendering of
the march-inflected opening phrases. The recording features
what would be considered today a largish band, but one right “on
the ball”. Splendid playing echoes every turn of Kovacevich’s
pianism. I would mark out all the woodwind soloists in particular,
who are an absolute joy throughout.
to the slow movement one encounters an example of a so-called “reverie
andante”, a beautiful dream-like movement used famously in
the art film “Elvira Madigan”. Initially in the atmosphere
of today’s “authentic” performances the tempo may seem a
tad slow, but the pianist and conductor ensure that the music
never drags or bogs down. In fact there is a perfect balance
between poetry and animation. Interestingly I had to hand
the CD featuring Karl
Engel (playing on a Bosendorfer) with the Salzburg Mozarteum
under Leopold Hager. Engel’s recordings are an important
landmark since he was the first to record the works, in the
1970s, using the then newly available “Neuen Mozart-Ausgabe”.
All the concertos are played exactly as written … no more,
no less. The results are interesting, and I wouldn’t be without
them on my shelves, but they emerge as penny plain – try
for instance comparing the andante of No. 21 with Kovacevich
and you’ll see what I mean.
I cannot emphasise enough how one’s ear is ravished not only
by Kovacevich’s contribution but by the delicacy and point
of the orchestra’s contribution … and what better way of
illustrating that than by sampling the phrasing of the first
oboe - Roger Lord, I presume? What divine playing.
finale exhibits pearly finger-work from the pianist combined
with a wonderful “opera-buffa” feel imparted to the orchestra
from Davis. A delightfully impish style and one well caught
in the recording … Walthamstow or Watford perhaps? … although
Philips are their usual enigmatic selves, unrevealing of
precise location or recording details.
number 25 is a much grander affair altogether; a “Jupiter” among
the piano concertos, and not just because it shares the same
key. Mozart felt, for the time being at least, that he had
written enough keyboard concertos for his concert appearances
and it seems he did, for a while at least, intend this to
be the last in the series. Orchestration seems fuller here
than in K467, though this is partly because of the greater
presence given to the trumpets and drums; indeed there is
altogether a more “Olympian” feeling. Kovacevich and Davis
gauge this exactly, but yet again add point and alertness
to the phrasing. The pianists’ cadenza I thought especially
beautiful slow movement moves across the aural palette like
the equivalent of a fine malt; a deep and complex interaction
of textures, and is followed once again by a joyful finale.
Incidentally I would part company with the anonymous sleeve-note
writer at this point; he (or she) talks of the movement as
being “playful but staid in its merriment”. The implication
being that because of the “Olympian” C major feel of much
of the work, Mozart couldn’t really let his guard down in
the finale. Well I think Kovacevich and Davis feel differently,
and that’s all to the good.
again this release has illustrated how, as a hard-pressed
collector in the 1970s, I missed certain discs among the
torrent of new releases which went on to become classics.
I am very glad to have made its acquaintance now, albeit
some thirty or so years late.
tiny point though; having been somewhat confused by this
pianist’s name changes over the years, (i.e. Stephen Bishop,
Bishop-Kovacevich, and then just Kovacevich), if the cover
is a reproduction of the LP of the early 1970s, shouldn’t
he at this stage have been Stephen Bishop? Oh dear, I can
feel the letters coming in already …
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