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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No 24 in C minor K491 (1786) [30:42]
Piano Concerto No 25 in C K503 (1786) [32:25]
Fantasia in D minor K397 (1782) [6:22]
Imogen Cooper (piano & director)/Northern Sinfonia; Bradley Creswick (leader & co-director)
rec. Hall One of The Sage, Gateshead, 8-11 November 2007
AVIE AV2175 [70:00]

Experience Classicsonline

I expected that this would be good, but not just how good. These performances capture the individuality of each work in what sounds like a delightfully spontaneous way. There is no sense of routine; each phrase, each note, even, is given its individual character. In particular, the various additions that the piano makes to material previously presented by the orchestra is always treated as a comment on or intensification of that material, rather than as mere decoration of it. The equal billing given to Imogen Cooper and Bradley Creswick as co-directors is explained by the real sense of co-operation and interplay between soloist and orchestra. Tempi are well chosen and recording and balance are generally well managed. I assume that the unusually quiet second clarinet triplets in bar 156 of K491 to be a musical decision rather than a fault of the recording.

None of this should surprise those who have heard the soloist playing Schubert, Schumann or Mendelssohn, as she displays exactly the same virtues of sensitivity to both the moment and to the whole here that she does with those composers. Indeed as played here parts of the slow movement of K491 do occasionally sound like pre-echoes of Schubert. There is no exaggerated display of technique, but the variety of articulation and colour show her very considerable technical ability in every bar. I was gripped from beginning to end by the intensely concentrated music-making of all concerned. These performances are comparable with those of Curzon, Solomon or Brendel in their complete naturalness and understanding of the works.

The occasional unobtrusive decorations to the solo part add to the apparent spontaneity of the whole, and the use of cadenzas by Alfred Brendel is a welcome change to more usual choices. It is good to have the Fantasia for solo piano as a filler at the end and indeed it whets the appetite for a further disc of purely solo music. The only slight reservation I have concerns a couple of moments, in the first and last movements of K491 of what seem like rhythmic instability. I remain unsure whether this is a deliberate musical choice or a result of editing. It is however a minor matter at most, and does not seriously detract from what has immediately become one of my favourite discs of these concertos. It follows the success of their recording of the Concertos No 9 and 23, and I look forward to hearing more Mozart from these marvellous players.

John Sheppard


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