Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concertos: No. 1 in F K37 [15:33]; No. 2 in Bb K39 [14:27]; No. 3 in D K40 [13:46]; No. 4 in G K41[11:32]; Piano Concertos after J C Bach K107: No. 1 in D [12:27]; No. 2 in G [9:23]; No. 3 in E flat [8:05]; Symphony No. 14 in A K114 [20:20]
Malcolm Bilson (fortepiano)
American Classical Orchestra/Thomas Crawford
rec. no details given
NIMBUS NI 2579/80 [55:42 + 50:49]
When listening to Mozart’s mature piano concertos, which are amongst his very greatest compositions, it is easy to forget that even he had to learn how best to write such works, and had to experiment in the form. What better way of experimenting than to use existing material provided by other composers and to see how sonata movements by different composers could be turned into concertos. That is what Mozart did with the works included in this set, which is in effect a kind of pendant to the wonderful recordings of the mature concertos that Malcolm Bilson made with the English Baroque Soloists. The first four concertos make use of music by Raupach, Schobert, Homauer and C.P.E. Bach. Despite their varied background and the help - or at least assistance - given by Leopold Mozart in their composition they are surprisingly effective. All are brief and get successively briefer but very much to the point. It would be hard to claim that they are an essential part of every Mozartean’s regular listening but they are entertaining if inconsequential pieces. The performances here are suitably fresh and rhythmically alive, with some lovely sounds from the orchestra using period instruments and the fortepiano, a 1990 copy by Thomas and Barbara Wolf of a Schanz instrument from the 1780s.
The three concertos K107 are all based on sonata movements by J.C. Bach, and unlike the earlier concertos are scored very sparsely for two violins and bass – the same small group used to accompany the so-called “Epistle Sonatas” for organ and strings, also written in Salzburg. They are delightful pieces, more interesting in many ways than the earlier concertos as they are based on more interesting music. Again, they are not amongst Mozart’s most important or profound works but they are surely amongst the most easily enjoyable, especially when played as persuasively as they are here.
In addition to the seven concertos the set includes the Symphony No. 14, a pleasant piece if one which slips easily from the memory as soon as it has finished. It is given a clean and vigorous performance, but what a pity not to include instead - or even as well - the solo original movements on which the concertos were based. In that way it would have been more obvious what Mozart had added or changed – in effect a composition lesson by Mozart!
It is easy to suggest improvements but better simply to enjoy what one has. And what we have here is a well presented selection of music by Mozart from his early years, well played and clearly if somewhat closely recorded, and offered at bargain price.
John Sheppard
A well presented selection, well played, clearly if closely recorded, and offered at bargain price.