Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 49 in F minor “La Passione” (1768) [19:43]
Dinu LIPATTI (1917-1950)
Piano Concertino in the Classical Style Op. 3 (1936) [16:52]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major KV 595 (1791) [28:05]
Julien Libeer (piano)
Les Métamorphoses/Raphaël Feye
rec. 2018, Concertgebouw Brugge, Belgium
EVIL PENGUIN RECORDS CLASSIC EPRC0029 [64:42]
The Lignes Parallèles aspect of this programme is never really explained in the booklet notes to this release, but Julien Libeer’s enthusiasm is communicated in his personal note on the recording, and with fine sound and superlative performances this has clearly been a labour of love from all concerned. The Concertgebouw Brugge, or Bruges if you prefer, is a discreetly proportioned modern building that avoids spoiling the town’s ancient architectural charm and has fine acoustics. I was there a few years ago having been short-listed for a composition prize; left having found out just a little more about how such things work, but still glad to have had a day wandering around in that beautiful place.
Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 is one of his more serious statements in this genre, gaining its nickname from the Passion of Christ, and setting out its minor-key mood in an Adagio first movement positioned such that its form can be seen as following that of a Baroque church sonata. Haydn wouldn’t be Haydn without a certain amount of spring in the step, and the Menuet third movement with its virtuoso moments for the horns sets us up nicely for a rousing Finale: Presto. Les Métamorphoses play with verve and superb expression and energy in a transparent, early-music style with clean string lines and a sense of control that enhances rather than suppresses the score.
One of my flute-player colleagues dismissed Lipatti’s Piano Concertino in the Classical Style as a ‘liflafje’, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the piece, and would have been more than proud to have been able to write something like it as a teenager. The second movement Adagio molto is particularly magical, having something of the neo-Baroque feel that Tippett was also able to conjure. There is a lightness and good humour in the other movements that is guaranteed to raise a smile, especially in a performance as sensitive and lively as this one.
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major KV 595 was completed in his final year after having been started some time earlier. Donald Surrock in his booklet note points out that this work is part of a ‘new aesthetic’ in Mozart’s output, “…Apollonian, serene. There are no boisterous high spirits, no gestures to the crowd, rather a supreme indifference to any need for public effect.” I’m not sure I agree 100% with this, but at this point in Mozart’s intensely compressed life it is easy enough to imagine that he no longer felt the need to satisfy the critics. This once again is a very fine performance, the recording nicely balanced in giving the woodwinds just enough presence, and the sonic perspective by no means lifting the piano beyond its place as a first amongst its equal partner the orchestra.
This superbly curated and produced programme stands on its own, and comes with the highest recommendation as far as I’m concerned. Dinu Lipatti’s Concertino has appeared before, and if you want to hear more of his work you can find plenty on Luiza Borac’s excellent set from Avie (review). Comparing Raphaël Feye’s view on the Haydn symphony with that of Thomas Fey with the Heidelberger Sinfoniker on the Hännsler Classic label (vol. 6 of their complete edition) shows a relative briskness, with the opening Adagio movement coming in at just under seven minutes to Fey’s 9:37. Fey is broader in general in this symphony, but with the present recording you hear all kinds of forward-looking, Schubertian moments with Feye’s first movement, making it something more symphonic in a Beethovenian sense where Fey seems more keen to turn it into something more like a descriptive orchestral intermezzo from an oratorio. For the Mozart concerto I picked on Martin Helmchen with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra on Pentatone Classics (review) by way of comparison, and was intrigued to hear how much difference string and wind vibrato makes to the character of the music. The connection between piano and orchestra seems so much closer with Julien Libeer and Raphaël Feye, a kind of symbiotic reliance one to the other, where Helmchen with Gordan Nikolić seem somehow more separate – enjoyable indeed, but less intimately bound up in each other’s musical fate.
One of the fine qualities in Lignes Parallèles is a respectful lack of deification of the composers presented. The musicians are clearly enjoying the music they are playing, but there is no aura of the reliquary about these performances, making them sound as fresh and relevant as if they had been written yesterday. What more could you want?