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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concerto in E flat major for two pianos and orchestra KV365 (316a) (1779) [23.29]
Sinfonia Concertante in E flat Major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra KV364 (1779) [30:14]
Håvard Gimse (piano); Vebjørn Anvik (piano); Lars Anders Tomter (viola)
Norwegian Chamber Orchestra/Iona Brown (violin)
rec. 13-14 November 1995, Eidsvoll Church, Norway (KV364), 6-7 October 1996, Lommedalen Church, Norway (KV365).
CHANDOS CHAN10507X [53:56]
Experience Classicsonline

This was originally released in 1998 as CHAN9695 and now re-appears as part of that label’s budget range. The label on the back says that it has been digitally re-mastered, but without a copy of the original I can’t comment on any changes to the sound quality. It certainly sounds as good as any other recordings of this repertoire I’ve heard.
 
Now, listen folks, some of you will have become overdosed with all that over-promotion of Mozart over the years, and some of you may have tried some and just found him b-o-r-i-n-g. There may even be those among you who are fans, but have become a little jaded either by what is currently on offer, or who are given little daily prods of guilt by all those old and beloved favourites gathering dust on the shelves and, to be honest, not aired nearly as often as our cultural aspirations say they ought. Here, for the price of a pint and a pie, is something which will introduce and inspire non-initiates, and will bring back some bounce into the step of long-distance music collectors and old lags such as CD reviewers.
 
The Concerto in E flat major for two pianos and orchestra KV365 was written for Mozart to play with his sister Nannerl, and as a result the solo parts are great fun. The accompaniment of the orchestra is still connected with the ‘style galant’ of J.C. Bach and contemporaries, but is nonetheless infused with Mozart’s hard to imitate refinement, and the music is unmistakeably his in both lively character and ineffable charm. Håvard Gimse and Vebjørn Anvik are wonderfully matched as pianists, and play with great panache. I love their barrel-organ tremuli 2:13 or so into the last movement, and their whole approach is energetic and expressive, as well as being unmannered and unpretentious throughout. The recording helps separate the two instruments, placing them rather improbably wide; almost at each side of the orchestra, and just a tad too dominant for the level of the rest of the players. This is not a real problem, and works as if you’d pinched the best seat in the house, the one just behind the conductor’s rostrum. I’ve compared this recording with another old favourite, that with Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu and the English Chamber Orchestra on Sony SK 44 915, but cannot say I prefer them outright over the present recording. The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra sounds full and impressively in control, with accurate and detailed dynamics and phrasing. They are rather less muscular than the ECO on Sony, but, re-discovering this disc on my second-mortgage headphones, have only now realised how plagued with edits this recording is – especially that last Allegro. All swings and roundabouts aside this Chandos KV365 is cracking good fun, and something I’ll want to have close to hand to cut through the gloom of temperate weather or intemperate taxes.
 
Well, so you don’t know the Sinfonia Concertante in E flat Major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra KV364? Then, sir or madam, I envy you, as you are in for a top-notch treat. This was the last of Mozart’s works to be written in the ‘concertante’ format, relating to the baroque concerto grosso as well as looking forward to more fashionable solo concerti. With the technical demands for both instruments being equally divided this work amounts to being a double concerto, and the richness of the orchestral scoring, with 2 oboes and 2 horns added to the strings create a sound world both direct and sophisticated at the same time. The scordatura re-tuning of the viola strings is another feature in the colour of this piece. Normally in C, the strings are tuned up to D, making the solo stand out from the orchestral alto line and bringing it closer to the solo violin. The cadenzas are also Mozart’s originals, and the whole thing is played superbly by the incomparable Iona Brown and Lars Anders Tomter. The first movement Allegro maestoso is full of vigour and energy as you might expect from the still youthful Mozart, but there are also plenty of surprising turns and descending expressive lines which catch the listener unawares. The soft, tender centre to this piece is the Andante, which, as Eve Barsham correctly points out in her booklet notes, “ranks as one of the most poignant creations Mozart ever achieved.” Even composers of our times are occasionally moved to use this as an emotional reference point, and Michael Nyman’s score for the film ‘Drowning by Numbers’ is infused with its most expressive moments. Iona Brown and her team don’t over-egg the pudding and keep to Mozart’s tempo marking, allowing the music expressive space without wallowing in romantic sentiment. This is music which can speak it own eloquence, and does so here in spades. The final Presto is refined and infectiously joyous. 
 
Yes, there are other recordings which probably rank higher on the big-name general popularity stakes, but the pairing of works here works a treat, and the genuinely high spirits and technical excellence of both the playing and recording of this disc make it an instant winner in my book. This is the kind of disc which would once upon a long lost time ago have been played more or less on a loop in the basement of Farringdon Records in Cheapside, and one of the few we ‘floorwalkers’ wouldn’t have tired of hearing. The church acoustic in both works is appropriately resonant, without being swimmy or hiding detail, and the ‘Chandos sound’ is very much in evidence – rich and attractively spacious. It only goes to show, even in these straitened times, you can for very little outlay find seriously top level recordings of pieces which, once discovered, you’ll genuinely want to play again and again.
 
Dominy Clements                         
 
         

 


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