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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 16 in D Major KV451 [22:24]
Piano Concerto No. 15 in B Flat Major KV450 [24:39]
Piano Quintet in E Flat Major KV452 [23:31]
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
Rachel Clegg (oboe), Fiona Cross (clarinet), Naomi Atherton (horn), Ben Hudson (bassoon)
Manchester Camerata/Gábor Takács-Nagy
rec. 2018, The Stoller Hall, Hunts Bank, Manchester, UK
CHANDOS CHAN20035 [71:03]

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has joined forces with Gábor Takács-Nagy and the Manchester Camerata to record the complete Mozart piano concertos. This is the third volume in the series. Bavouzet has won awards for his recordings of Haydn, Debussy, Prokofiev and Grieg. This recording shows that he is also a born Mozartian.

The three works on this recording all date from 1784 when Mozart was newly married and beginning to forge a freelance career for himself. The Piano Concerto in D Major K451 uses trumpets with timpani and has a distinctive military character. Takács-Nagy’s tempo is spot on in the opening movement marked Allegro assai. He and the Manchester Camerata open the movement with vibrancy and dynamism, and bring an infectious enthusiasm to Mozart’s springy dotted rhythms. Bavouzet’s phrasing and passagework are a model of classical decorum, and he uses subtle rubato to superb effect. There is excellent interplay between piano and orchestra, with phrases passing seamlessly between the players. The music is beautifully characterised. The militaristic opening theme gives way to the camp, whimsical second subject. The Manchester Camerata’s woodwind section are enchanting at the start of the slow movement. Bavouzet brings charm and restraint to the movement before giving us a moment of heart-stopping poetry in the interlude before the return of the opening them. The finale has enormous fizz and sparkle. There is tight, spirited interplay between soloist and orchestra. Bavouzet brings enormous energy to the increasingly elaborate passagework. It is impossible not to be swept along with the joys of music-making.

Mozart ramps up the technical difficulties for the soloist in his Piano Concerto in B Flat Major K450, one of the most overtly virtuosic of his piano concertos. Takács-Nagy and the Manchester Camerata woodwind open the movement with a tentative spring in their step. This is immediately followed by a response of the utmost decorum from the strings. Woodwind and strings continue to vie to great effect before Bavouzet enters with improvisatory flourishes. Bavouzet takes centre stage for most of this movement. His phrasing, touch, timbre and articulation are all exemplary. The cadenza, delivered with extraordinary technical control, is a real tour de force. Takács-Nagy and Bavouzet bring sweetness to the Andante and create a lyrical thread which runs through the movement. Bavouzet’s increasingly elaborate variations move seamlessly from an accompanying to a centre-stage role. The finale is a moment of pure unalloyed joy and zips along in an unbounded way. Bavouzet handles with aplomb the extreme technical difficulties, including the treacherous Scarlatti-like hand crossings .

The final work on the recording is the Quintet for Piano and Winds K452, the first work written for this combination of instruments. Bavouzet is joined by four of the principals from the Manchester Camerata. The balance between the five instrumentalists is excellent. There is a wonderful sense of all the players having a shared understanding of the music. In the introductory Largo, Mozart’s phrases flow between the five instrumentalists in a mellifluous and intensely musical way. The ensuing Allegro moderato has charm and vigour in equal measure and Mozart’s wonderful scales and embellishments scamper along delightfully. In the Larghetto slow movement Bavouzet weaves delicate arabesques around a floating melody taken by all the wind instruments in turn. The final Allegretto trips along delightfully before all five players come together one final time to drive the piece to its exuberant conclusion.

This is an outstanding recording and is worthy to sit alongside the great Mozart concerto recordings such as those by Perahia and Uchida.
Robert Beattie