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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The Complete Mozart Piano Concertos: Volume 4
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K467a (1785) [28:27]
Piano Concerto No. 16 in D, K451b (1784) [23:42].
Cyprien Katsaris (piano)
Salzburg Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra/Yoon Kuk Lee.
rec. live, Grosser Saal of the Mozarteum, Salzburg, 23 May 1997a; 4 December 1998b DDD.
Timing also includes two alternative cadenzas for No. 21.
PIANO 21 P21 025-N [57:59]
 

 


Interesting how cadenzas to Mozart concertos can become a selling point. Pollini interestingly opted for Salvatore Sciarrino's cadenza for No. 21. Katsaris wrote his own for both concertos, but has recorded as supplementary tracks alternative cadenzas - also by him - for the first and last movements as well as providing quasi-improvisatory flourishes at various points in the finale.

The recording is clear and bright, as befits Mozart in C major mood. There is perhaps a slight feeling of congestion in the mid-range, but it is slight. Katsaris himself plays fluidly, lets in the light and air, yet still highlights the ceremonial aspect of No. 21's first movement. Semiquavers are even: a pleasure to encounter. Yoon Kuk Lee provides expert support, fully at one with Katsaris's conception. Try the bullet-like chords just before the cadenza. The cadenza we hear as part of the performance begins traditionally enough but soon wonders off on its own. Strangely, just when one thinks Katsaris's imagination is warming up, the orchestra re-enters!. Cadenza 'B', as it is called, is superimposed onto the final applause, with the orchestra lead-in restated. This is an altogether more playful affair, with Katsaris clearly testing the boundaries, referring sometimes to Liszt and at others, to Busoni. The registral limits of Mozart's piano are jettisoned. At just under four minutes for this cadenza alone, there is plenty of scope for fun and games, and indeed there are plenty of those.

The famous slow movement is a model of restraint and elegance, its atmosphere successfully sustained to the very end. There is a touch too much reverb to the recording of the opening of the finale. It is clear the orchestra itself is stylish. Katsaris's opening flourish - see note above - is fairly extended; his addition later in the movement is just plain cheeky. He is clearly a gentleman of much humour. Cadenza 'A' is a cascade of notes; the tagged-on Cadenza 'B' is significantly more muscular, more experimental and darker.

The Sixteenth Concerto, one of the lesser played of the canon, opens in a blaze of Mozart's most ceremonial D major. Here, Katsaris has Mozart's own cadenzas in place so there are no alternatives. The orchestral exposition is a joy. The conductor clearly understands Mozartian texture and voice-leading as much as his pianist. Braying horns point towards period practice.

The recorded piano sound strikes me as a little duller than that for No. 21; sixteen months separates the two performances. Yet Katsaris's finger-work is every bit as sparkling. Christian Lorandin's booklet notes ask why this concerto is not heard more often, but my ears tell me that the first movement, at least, of this work is not the equal of even No. 15, still less the great No. 17 in G.

Mozart's cadenza sounds remarkably exploratory in Katsaris's reading. It melts back into the orchestra before a rather brief coda. The slow movement feels rather slower than an Andante, yet there is no doubting its heartfelt nature; nor is there any doubting the suavity of the orchestra's response to Mozart's divinely inspired score. The finale is a Rondeau, and indeed begins as the epitome of elegance. Chamber music is in the foreground here, in the wind/piano interactions and elsewhere. There are some simply stunning moments in the cadenza in terms of the way Katsaris has considered texture and the way he weights his accompaniments to fragments of melody.

All praise to Katsaris for creating his own label, Piano 21, after many years recording for a large variety of labels. The performances on this disc will give much pleasure as well as stimulate much thought.

Colin Clarke

 


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