Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.17 in G, K453
Piano Concerto No.18 in B flat, K456 [29:13]
Divertimento in B flat (“Salzburg Symphony” No.2), K137 [10:25]
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
Manchester Camerata/Gábor Takács-Nagy
rec. Concert Hall of the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 15-16 March 2016
CHANDOS CHAN10929 [74:42]
The mantra all performers must repeat over and over again when recording something which is already very well represented on disc is, “what am I bringing to it which is new and distinctive?” For Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, the answer in this case is simple. He is bringing to Mozart’s G major Concerto, K453, cadenzas of such startling originality and invention that they flavour the entire disc.
Moving off message and into the realms of Ravel, Stravinsky and near-jazz, Bavouzet’s cadenzas are an astonishing departure from Mozart’s own (which are usefully included on the disc as supplementary tracks) and one which, it might be thought, would stretch credulity beyond reasonable limits. But the amazing thing is, you listen to Mozart and enjoy the lovely quality of the playing as well as Gábor Takács-Nagy’s delightfully personable readings, and find yourself wandering off into Bavouzet’s own fantastic dream-world without even knowing it. Suddenly you are in the chromatic morasses of neo-Classical Stravinsky and wonder how on earth you got there. Next, you find yourself seamlessly transported back into the presence of Mozart and, again, wonder whether the strange aberration you have just experienced is real or imaginary. So beautifully integrated are these extraordinary cadenzas into the performance that their departure from the standard idiom is barely perceptible. Potential stylistic gulfs are bridged so easily that it is difficult to object to the musical chasm which lies between them.
There are two clear opinions. The first is that cadenzas need to maintain the stylistic idiom of the concerto, while the other is that cadenzas originally opened the door for different stylistic viewpoints to emerge. I retain a critic’s impartiality on the matter, but am as near convinced by Bavouzet as can be. These cadenzas not only add a lovely measure of spice and a tantalizing glimpse of the present, but they bring about a freshness and vitality to the concertos which causes us to listen to it as if through new ears.
Beyond the novelty of the cadenzas in the G major Concerto, these performances would be well worth having on disc on their own terms. Gábor Takács-Nagy is a conductor whose approach exudes not just good cheer and a lovely sense of joy in the music, but have an almost spiritually-charged character; to use one of his own favourite words when describing musical optimism, these are moments of pure “alleluya”. Bavouzet is in total accord with this approach, and the fluency and elegance of this playing is the perfect match to the Manchester Camerata’s witty and at times effervescent playing.
With a fine recorded sound, this is a recording of two popular Mozart concertos which should be in everyone’s possession.