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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Arrangements by Ignaz Lachner

Piano Concerto No. 20 K.466 [30:29]
Piano Concerto No. 21 K.457 [27:21]
Alon Goldstein (piano)
Rachel Calin (bass)
Fine Arts String Quartet
rec. 24-26 June 2014, American Academy of Arts & Letters, New York City
NAXOS 8.573398 [57:56]

You know you have everything, doubly, triply, and quintuply in your collection, when you reach for recordings of Mozart’s concertos transcribed for piano, string quartet, and double bass. Ignaz Lachner was the person that thought to make these works more accessible to the greater public by means of transcribing them. This is really the reason for most transcriptions, even when they go the other way around: from small to big, from, say, string quartet to orchestral treatment. That reasoning died, with the advent of recordings, but often the transcriptions offer us different viewpoints of familiar works, are half-new, beautiful creations of familiar works. They are a chance to enjoy afresh that with which we are familiar. Brahms’ Piano Quartet in Schoenberg’s gigantic orchestration becomes his Fifth Symphony. Bach’s Passacaglia has morphed through anything from two-piano versions to Stokowski’s wonderful orchestral perversion. Bach himself pruned Italian composers from concertos to inspired solo-keyboard works. György Kurtág turned Bach works into hauntingly gorgeous pieces for piano four hands. It’s a tremendously rich field of musical recycling and I’m a real sucker for it.

There’s noble precedent, too: Mozart himself authorized and published four of his concertos for this treatment … but Nos. 11-14, not these two of Mozart’s great piano concertos, the D Minor Concerto No.20, K.466 and the C Major Concerto No.21, K.467. For the early ones, we’ve reviewed a bunch of recordings on MusicWeb International before and I agree with the general sentiment: Gottlieb Wallisch (Linn) is the go-to account if you need Mozart concertos in their trimmed-down version. Alon Goldstein and the double-bass augmented Fine Arts Quartet won’t make this list, or at least not mine. There is nothing that I learned from these transcriptions about the originals. There was no moment of strange delight, no new angle, no novel timbre. None of the playing makes me halt, rest and nod my head; the tone of the strings is straight-forward and faultless at best. The piano plays all the notes but very matter-of-factly, and in total, it doesn’t strike me as much more than an excellent sight-reading effort. The music is really just the same as the original thing, except malnourished, impoverished, a little scratchy, and a good deal ungainly. I’ll be more blunt, still: There’s too much great music, transcribed or otherwise, in more wonderful performances out there for me to ever listen to this again. Next.

Jens F. Laurson






 




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