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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K466 with cadenzas by Michael Rische [30:32]
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K466 with alternative cadenzas by Busoni, Clara Schumann, Hummel, F X W Mozart and Beethoven [25:03]
Michael Rische (piano)
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Howard Griffiths
rec. 18-20 June 2008, Philharmonie Köln. DDD
HÄNSSLER PROFIL PH09006 [55:45] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


There have been several other recordings which offer the opportunity to compare and contrast different cadenzas for a particular concerto. As far as I am aware this is the first time that this has been done for this work. This is perhaps surprising as of all Mozart’s concertos this is the one which seemed most to appeal to nineteenth century taste, and which rightly still retains its popularity today. The first and last movements clearly require a cadenza to be played. Unsurprisingly a whole parade of famous composers and pianists have put down their ideas for this in writing. Arguably a written cadenza is by its nature likely to be less successful than one improvised at a live performance and which can draw on the adrenalin and circumstances of that performance. There are nonetheless few pianists nowadays prepared to risk the inspiration of the moment. The great majority will have worked at least as hard on preparing someone else’s cadenza as they do the main part of the concerto. In this they differ from members of the clergy required to preach a sermon each Sunday. Few nowadays take the alternative and once normal approach of reading the sermons of others who may be much more distinguished or learned as theologians. They prefer their own efforts which can be tailored to the event. Perhaps pianists might take note of this example.
 

Nonetheless, who would sensibly wish to forgo the opportunity of hearing the versions of such composers as Beethoven, Brahms and Busoni who also happened to be piano virtuosi? The present disc is cunningly arranged so that the main part of the first and last movements have tracks of their own, followed by a series of five alternative cadenzas for each followed by the coda to that movement. As no cadenza is required in the slow movement that is given a single track only. Thus it is possible to programme your CD player to include any of the various cadenzas included. 

What should a cadenza be in a concerto such as this? It should obviously be an opportunity to display the soloist’s technical abilities. It is also an opportunity to take their approach to the character of the music further, exploring the themes of the music beyond what the composer has done in the written parts of the movement. Mozart’s own cadenzas are wonderful models of this, although their very existence does mean that few soloists dare to attempt anything different when they exist. Those for the D minor Concerto have been lost so an alternative choice has to be made, usually those by Beethoven. The ones chosen for the present disc are given in reverse chronological order, so that those by the soloist himself are included first; very good they are too. They make no attempt at “period” style but are well related to the work and to his performance, which is just as it should be. I suspect that if I were playing the disc simply to hear the Concerto I would see no reason to change them. 

All of the others do however have interest and they are well contrasted. I have mentioned Beethoven’s familiar efforts, written early in his career only some ten years after the Concerto itself. They maintain its almost demonic energy and are well played here. Those by Busoni are somewhat less familiar but if anything go even further in capturing the essential character of the work without resort to pastiche or mere decorative virtuosity. Those by Brahms for the first movement and Clara Schumann for the last are interesting in again being very much of their period and of their composers. The final pair – Hummel for the first movement and Mozart’s younger son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang for the last – are essentially more concerned with pianistic effects than with appropriateness to the character of the Concerto; nonetheless they do have some historic interest. 

Michael Rische distinguishes between all of these versions with remarkable ability to get to their essence. For the most part I also greatly enjoyed his playing in the majority of the Concerto. He is careful to give each phrase or section its distinctive character. At times he is prone to some stickiness of rhythm which perhaps detracts from its impetus, especially in the first movement, although not enough to spoil the performance as a whole. The orchestra play well and the recorded balance is very satisfactory. All in all you might well think that this disc would be worth having for the Concerto alone. Clearly however it is the chance to hear the various alternative cadenzas that are its point. It should appeal strongly to anyone wanting to understand the work and its performance more deeply.

John Sheppard





 


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