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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K414 (1782) [24:31]
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major, K271 Jeunehomme (1777) [31:42]
Ekaterina Litvintseva (piano)
Klassische Philharmonie Bonn/Heribert Beissel
rec. live, 7 November 2013, Theater Meppen, Meppen, Germany
PROFIL PH14047 [56:24]

This live concert release features Russian pianist Ekaterina Litvintseva who is active on the international stage. She studied in Moscow and later in Cologne and Würzburg where her professor was Bernd Glemser - a name familiar from various Naxos CDs.

Heribert Beissel and Litvintseva felt there was little to be gained by recording Mozart’s most popular concertos as they have been done so often. That said there are still a considerable number of sets of the complete piano concertos recorded by world class pianists such as Brendel, Barenboim, Uchida and Perahia, some for the second time. Nevertheless, the Concertos No. 9, K.271 Jeunehomme and No. 12, K.414 seem to have a particular suitability for this Bonn-based twenty-three strong chamber orchestra who specialise in the Viennese classical style. Incidentally Beissel, who studied under the great Günter Wand, is the founder and principal conductor Klassische Philharmonie Bonn.

Written in 1777 at Salzburg the Piano Concerto No. 9 is known as the Jeunehomme after a French woman pianist Mlle. Jeunehomme who may or may not have existed. The latest thinking is that the concerto was actually written for a pianist named Victoire Jenamy who had commissioned the work. Biographer Professor Arthur Hutchings in his book ‘A Companion to Mozart’s Piano Concertos’ (Oxford University Press, 1948) viewed this was Mozart’s “first concerto to be recognised as a masterpiece”. Involved virtually right from the start of the Allegro Litvintseva provides crisply articulated and agreeable playing. Some of the wind playing seemed a touch over-bright in the forte passages which was down to the closeness of the recording. In the Andantino the playing is thoughtful although a touch lacking in subtlety of light and shade. The characterful Rondo, Finale is strongly reminiscent of a Mozartean comic opera and is given here with buoyancy and alertness.

After a gap of three years Mozart returned to the piano concerto and in 1782 wrote a group of three: No. 11, K.413; No. 12, K.414 and No. 13, K. 415 all written in his early period of living in Vienna. Like the other two in the set the Piano Concerto No. 12, K.414 was tailored to complement Viennese taste. Sunny and upbeat the opening Allegro is played with joie de vivre. There's fine, sensitive playing in the Andante and the Finale: Rondeau, Allegretto is suitably brisk with a fresh feel from this attentive soloist.

I am distinctly impressed with Litvintseva’s committed and accomplished playing. At times I wanted a slightly smoother legato and the exalted poetry, which the great masters of the piano convey, may come in time. The splendid Klassische Philharmonie Bonn is a model of consistency: enthusiastic and dedicated. The sound quality is satisfactorily clear with the soloist placed a touch forward in the balance; not a problem. However, I noticed that some of the wind playing seemed a touch over-bright in the forte passages. Recorded live I could hear only minimal audience noise and the applause has been left in.

Michael Cookson

Masterwork Index: Concerto 9 ~~ Concerto 12