Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E, K482 (1785) [33:31]
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K488 (1786) [26:06]
Daniel Barenboim (piano)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík
rec. 5-6 June 1970, Herkulessaal der Residenz, Munich
BR KLASSIK 900709 [59:46]

Barenboim first collaborated with Kubelík when the pianist was sixteen. That
encounter was in Australia. And K488 was the first concerto he played in public, back when he was eight. The conjunction of that concerto and the Czech conductor comes in this release from BR Klassik, which presents a collaboration made in June 1970 in Munich where Kubelík was music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

This was a compatible meeting of minds. Barenboim is on record as having admired the older man for his seriousness and vitality, and it certainly sounds to have been a congenial coming together of kindred spirits. Kubelík ensures that the string weight in K488 is not too saturated but remains clarified, if not exactly spruce. Meanwhile Barenboim is characteristically attentive in his exchanges with the wind principals – the warmly supple dialogue with the first flute is a case in point. The first movement cadenza is conspicuously well played but contains melancholic introspections that are fully realised in the central movement – the veiled anticipations lead with inexorable logic to the deepening expression that follows. What remains laudable is that this expression comes at no cost to the architectural continuity of the music making. Instead the clarinets offer reprieve in their flowing episodes and the grandeur of the melancholy is adroitly realised by a confluence of soloists, alert orchestral colours and detailed etching of rhythms and contours from the conductor. Released from this spirit, the finale explores more bucolic emotions – bubbling lower winds, clarity and rounded ebullience from Barenboim and if the recording somewhat favours, as so often, the soloist - meaning that some winds writing can be swamped - this deficiency doesn’t materially limit one’s appreciation of a fine traversal, a unanimous one moreover, expressively and intellectually.

These features apply equally to the companion concerto performed here, the Concerto in E, K482. The Military-Janissary quality is welcomingly celebrated by Kubelík, the crisp chording having more than a touch of imperial majesty about them. Barenboim evokes something of his hero Edwin Fischer’s simplicity of expression. His excellently conceived cadenza playing impresses and so too does the austerity and interior expression of the slow movement. The reminiscent reverie cultivated in the central panel of the finale attests to the probing introspection of these collaborations.

Naturally Barenboim’s concerto cycle with the ECO will be the first port of call for collectors of the commercial discography from around this time. But these almost contemporaneous live traversals are of lasting value given the assured and sensitive direction of Kubelík.

Jonathan Woolf

A congenial coming together of kindred spirits