Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Keyboard Concerto No 19, K459, in F (arr. de Maistre) [29:05]
Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra, K299, in C [26:49]
Keyboard Sonata No 16, K545, in C (arr. de Maistre) [8:23]
Xavier de Maistre (harp)
Magali Mosnier (flute) (K299)
Mozarteumorchester Salzburg/Ivor Bolton
rec. 25-27 February 2013, Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg
SONY CLASSICAL 88765 439922 [64:17]
This CD is a peach. Xavier de Maistre has arranged Mozart’s piano concerto No. 19 and piano sonata No. 16 for harp, and performs them here along with the more popular concerto for harp and flute. The two arrangements prove very satisfying and fluent at all times: the harp feels at home in this music. It’s not very far off, really, from the sound of some period keyboards. So the disc is a very pleasing way to spend an hour and a testament to de Maistre’s skill. He also had a friend, Sylvain Blassel, compose new cadenzas. Blassel has a CD of his own arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, so Xavier de Maistre has some very talented friends.
Magali Mosnier joins in for the flute concerto and does a wonderful job with her part, though she’s slightly overshadowed. This isn’t her fault: the recorded sound favours de Maistre too heavily, and he dominates both orchestral works. At times his harp is as loud as, or louder than, the entire symphony orchestra. This is a very old-fashioned way of solving the engineering problem of a harp not being the easiest solo instrument to record. It’s therefore not easy to assess the playing of the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg: I’m sure they’re up to their usual great standards, but they’ve been pushed to the background.
De Maistre’s close miking is fine in the wonderful little Sonata No. 16, which is a delightful combination of new and familiar. Certainly if you’ve heard this work too many times you’ll still appreciate hearing this twist, especially since de Maistre is such a tasteful soloist. There are no repeats played in the sonata.
I’d never heard of Xavier de Maistre or Magali Mosnier before. Sony Classical assumes that they’re household names, and supplies full-page photographs but no biographies. De Maistre was the first Frenchman to ever join the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; he left in 2010, and the orchestra’s principal harpist is now something which, for the VPO, is even more unthinkable than a Frenchman: a woman. De Maistre’s four previous albums feature other arrangements, of concertos and other works by the likes of Haydn, Vivaldi, Rodrigo - who did the harp version of Concierto de Aranjuez himself - and Debussy. Based on the craft evident here, I’ll be seeking those discs out. De Maistre knows how to arrange music effectively, and he knows how to play well. If you like Mozart, harps, or Mozart on harp, there’s nothing else left to say.