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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K.414-385p (1783) [26:03]
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K.271 ‘Jeunehomme’ (1777) [33:32]
Andrea Bacchetti (piano)
Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice, Genova/Fabio Luisi
rec. 2013/15, Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa

Andrea Bacchetti’s recordings of Bach and less-frequently performed keyboard works by the likes of Galuppi and Marcello have a great deal to recommend them. He has recorded Mozart before as well, and this live recording of the Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K.414 competes with his set of the three concertos K.413-415 that were intended as Mozart’s introductory card to Vienna (review).

Bacchetti’s previous recording of K. 414 on the Dynamic label has similar timings, though gives a more stately impression in the opening Allegro, which has more drama and character in this newer live recording. That gorgeous central Andante is both fragrant and involving, Bacchetti not giving in to needless rubato but delivering on Mozart’s aria-like melodic lines. This is a touch more aristocratic than Bacchetti’s expressive but more confiding and introverted touch in his earlier recording, but this can also be ascribed to projecting into a large auditorium when compared to a studio recording. The final Allegretto is jaunty and energetic without being wild, Bacchetti and Fabio Luisi always keeping their Mozartean cool without missing the composer’s little index-finger marking points of cleverness and wit.

Recorded live and in the same venue but separated by two years and what has to be two different recording producers, these concertos have widely differing recorded perspectives. K.414 sounds transparent and spacious, and aside from some audience coughs and bumps can compete with most other modern recordings. K.271 is much closer and more intimate, with much if not all of the acoustic of the sizeable Teatro Carlo Felice left out of the picture. To be honest, K.271 sounds as if the musicians are all just about managing to fit into your spare room and serenading you while you cook your pasta alla boscaiola. The oboes are a bit foggy and distant, and the piano up front and as close as it could be without falling off the stage. Despite this both orchestra and soloist put in a fine performance, with Mozart’s youthful smile much in evidence in the opening Allegro; the surprisingly funereal central Andantino carrying plenty of pre-Beethovenian weight without becoming leaden. The pianist kicks off the final Presto, another idea that Beethoven was happy to use later on, the interaction between Bacchetti and his orchestra seamless as ever. Bacchetti plays Mozart’s cadenzas as you would expect, but his playing in this final Rondeau is particularly delightful, channelling the composer’s impish wit right to the end.

This pairing of concertos is a happy one, and aside from a few period instrument versions was for instance programmed by Rudolf Serkin with the Marlboro Festival Orchestra sounding rather mono and distant on Sony Classics, and can be found with the addition of the Concerto K. 449 with Edna Stern and the Orchestre d’Auvergne on Zig Zag Territoires, which has a nice chamber-music feel but is a bit closely recorded and un-atmospheric for my taste. You can find them both on Michael Studer’s Claves collection The Legacy (review) and these are not dissimilar to Bacchetti in terms of timing, though I prefer the string sound of the Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice in K.414. Complete sets of Mozart’s piano concertos are there for the taking these days, and I’ve long had an affection for Murray Perahia’s recordings with the English Chamber Orchestra, though these full-fat 1980s recordings do have more recent competitors lighter and fleeter of foot, including Bacchetti in his final Allegretto of K.414.

With its uneven pairing of recorded perspectives this isn’t a straightforward recommendation, though I would be happy to have it just for K.414. Certainly Andrea Bacchetti’s standards of musicianship are equally high in both concertos, it’s just that K.271 is a bit tubby and cramped in comparative sonic terms, and it’s certainly a credit to these musicians that their Mozart still comes up so convincing in these circumstances. Brief applause is included at the end of each concerto, including someone auditioning for ‘plonker of the year’ at the end of K.271, possibly as a result of one too many glasses of Colli di Luni in the foyer.

Dominy Clements



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