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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.22 in E flat, K482 (1785) [29:39]
Ch’io mi scordi di te? … Non temer, amato bene , concert aria, K505 (1786) [8:53]
Piano Concerto No.24 in c minor, K491 (1786) [27:12]
Vanessa García Simón (soprano)
Cristofori/Arthur Schoonderwoerd (copy of fortepiano, c.1782)
rec. Théâtre de Gray, Haute Saône, France, 12-14 May 2015. DDD
Text of Ch’io mi scordi? included; no translation
ACCENT ACC24313 [65:52]

This is the latest in a series of recordings of the Mozart keyboard concertos by these artists which increasingly looks as if it will achieve completeness.  Earlier volumes are:

ACC24265 No.20, K466 and No.21, K467)
ACC24278 No.18, K456 and No.19, K459) – joint Recordings of the Month
ACC24289 No.5, K175 (two versions); Rondo in D, K382; Ah, lo previdi, K272
ACC24296 No.6, K238 and No.8, K246, Si mostra la sorte, K209; Con essequio, K210

The same team has also recorded all Beethoven’s Piano Concertos (Alpha 820, 5 CDs – review).

The main competition comes from a now almost complete series of BIS recordings with Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano), die Kölner Akademie and Michael Alexander Willens.  In fact the competition is more apparent than real because Brautigam’s chosen solo instruments are all bolder in sound than Schoonderwoerd’s.

Both sets have divided opinion: the Brautigam recordings have attracted almost vitriolic criticism in one quarter, though not from me and many others, while, to paraphrase Kirk McElhearn in his review of the Beethoven, Schoonderwoerd’s small-scale approach seems either crazy or illuminating.  I very much enjoyed the Beethoven recordings but was a little more guarded about ACC24265 and ACC24278, finding the approach a little too much like the old-fashioned manner of treating Mozart’s music like Meissen china.

In the case of the new CD I am even more guarded in my recommendation.  Cristofori field just two violins and violas, one cello and double bass, plus flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, horn, two trumpets and timpani.  While this means that the balance between the light-toned harpsichord-like fortepiano is well maintained, the overall effect leaves me wondering what happened to the works that I know and love more than in the case of the earlier releases.  As others seem to be coming to like the series I find myself moving in the other direction this time.

I don’t have the same reservations when listening to Lachner’s chamber-scale arrangements of Mozart’s piano concertos for piano, string quartet and double bass, but perhaps that’s because I look on them as different works.  (Nos. 20 and 21: Arnold Goldstein and Fine Arts Quartet, Naxos 8.573398 – review.  Jens F Laurson was decidedly underwhelmed, however – review).

Nor do I dislike Mozart’s own small-scale arrangements of his own Piano Concertos Nos. 12-14, but those are earlier works.  In fact, I wonder if the problem is less with the small ensemble and more to do with the very small voice of the copy of a Walter fortepiano, though that’s the sound that Mozart would have heard and the booklet makes a strong case for the use of such an instrument, pointing out that the use of leather on the hammers did not arise until well after Mozart’s death.

The performances are very good of their kind – more distinguished than the playing on the Naxos CD of the Lachner arrangements – and the recording is very good, capturing every detail of the performances.  The booklet is informative, though it’s of the kind which sits in a pouch inside the gatefold sleeve; annoyingly, they always seem to break out of their moorings and so it was on this occasion.  Some lax proof-reading has Ch’io mi scordi di te?  misprinted as Ch’io mio scordi in the booklet but not on the back cover.

My recommendations for conventional performances of these concertos are myriad: of the 100+ recordings of K482 alone I could name at least a dozen which I regularly listen to with pleasure but Brendel’s various recordings, not least his inexpensive Decca Duo with the ASMF and Neville Marriner, coupled with Nos. 9, 15, 25 and 27 would be near the top of most lists (4425712).  Lovers of the fortepiano – a less problematic version of the instrument than Schoonderwoerd’s, at least for me – should seek out Brautigam on BIS-SACD-2044 (Nos. 18 and 22 – reviewDL News 2014/10).  For No.24 it’s Brendel again (Decca Duo 4422692, with Nos. 19, 20, 21, 23 and two Rondos) or Brautigam on BIS-SACD-1894, with No.25 – review.

I found the Accent recording enjoyable and often illuminating but ultimately not totally convincing.

Brian Wilson

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