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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concerto for Three Pianos K242 [22:39]
Concerto for Two Pianos K365 [24:07]
Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in D K382 [9:27]
Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in A K386 [8:11]
Derek Han, Wu Han, Peter Asimov (pianos)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Massimo Quarta
rec. Cadogan Hall, London, September 2008
RPO SP018 [64:24] 
Experience Classicsonline

It’s a mystery to me why we don’t hear these fantastic concertos more often – aside from the obvious practicalities of getting up to three pianists on the same stage with an orchestra! I’ve always thought that they contain some of Mozart’s finest music, by turns charming, graceful and witty. Both concertos are youthful and, if following the conventional numbering, K242 would be No. 7 and K365 No. 10. K242 was written to be played by the ladies of the Lodron family,
Salzburg aristocrats to whom Mozart had given lessons. It’s essentially a galant work, the first movement a graceful conversation, the second a charming serenade and the third a gentle Rondo. The third piano part is kept relatively simple for the benefit of the Countess Lodron’s youngest daughter but it is still thoroughly engaging. The interplay of the two pianists is much more equal in the double concerto which is an altogether greater work, astonishingly so in places. The vigorous first movement takes advantage of the majestic potential of the E flat key, at times bustling its way through quasi-martial passages, while the second movement is a gently evolving love-duet between the two pianos. The finale is quite simply one of Mozart’s greatest rondos, pressing forwards with an unstoppable momentum. All of this makes sense when we learn that it was probably written for Mozart to perform alongside his sister, Nannerl. 

Derek Han has already recorded the complete Mozart piano concertos with the Philharmonia for Brilliant Classics, a thoroughly enjoyable set with dependable, often brilliant playing in superb sound. This CD makes a very welcome complement to that. The playing throughout is secure and charming, fully inside the music. He is joined by his wife and, in the triple concerto, by 16-year old Peter Asimov. They take K242 as seriously as it deserves, while K365 is often majestic, with a really convincing finale. The accompaniment of the RPO is sensitive and vigorous, fully committed to this music, while the direction of Massimo Quarta is steady and secure. The accompanying Rondos are more than acceptable fillers: K382 is almost comical with its martial trumpets and drums, while K386 is effortlessly charming. 

There is a lot of superstar competition out there for these works, not least a Decca set featuring Solti, Barenboim and Schiff with the English Chamber Orchestra, and I will always have a special fondness for the DG recording of the double concerto with Emil and Elena Gilels with Böhm and the VPO. They’re not necessarily easy to find, however, and I’m sure that this set will satisfy anyone who wants to get to know these marvellous works.

Simon Thompson



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