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Concerti Galanti
Elena Pinciaroli, David Boldrini (piano)
Orchestra Rami Musicali/Filippo Conti
rec. 2017, Teatro Di Vinci, Vinci; Chiesa di San Leonardo, Cerreto Guidi, Italy
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95260 [3 CDs: 167:19]

Before requesting this collection of 18th century keyboard concertos, I checked that the use of the term “piano” on the cover did indeed mean a pianoforte, and not the dreaded (by me) fortepiano. Reassured, I expected to hear some pleasant music in acceptable performances, but I’m pleased to report that I got at least that and more … and possibly less as well.

The Paisiello was one of three works which I already had in my collection, from an ASV set of seven of his concertos performed by Mariaclara Monetti and the English Chamber Orchestra so I started with it. The older recording is far more polished but a little less exciting than the new one, which is markedly quicker (16:32 compared to 21:04). It proved to be a good summary of all the works: sprightly and vivacious, but a little rough around the edges (the strings in particular). The Clementi I have is Felicja Blumenthal (Vox) and the new release well and truly trumps it in both sound and performance. The JC Bach was a quite old performance by Ingrid Haebler on fortepiano (obviously bought by mistake) with somewhat dull sound. Again this new recording is an improvement but I have listened to one on Berlin Classics (Sebastian Knauer with Sir Roger Norrington) via the Naxos Music Library, and it is significantly better again.

Of the works not known to me, the standout is the Kozeluch, apparently the first concerto of its type – piano 4 hands. Mozart would have been quite happy to have claimed it as one of his own, though admittedly not from his most inspired day. The Boccherini is also a very enjoyable piece, though this performance is blighted by the orchestra even more so than the others. The remaining works are of all of the expected style, attractive in a superficial way, and certainly a balm in these troubled times.

I admire the commitment by the performers who surely would have had a minimum amount of time to learn these ten works. The solo duties are shared: Elena Pinciaroli playing five and David Boldrini three, with both in the 2 piano and the piano 4 hands works. Pinciaroli has a warmer, less percussive style than Boldrini, which I feel works better for these pieces. They both play very well and with great energy. The best I can say about the Orchestra Rami Musicali is that it provides energetic support. The strings have a very glassy and not especially pleasant timbre, and are not always perfectly in tune. The wind players are mercifully better.

There are plenty of examples of booklet notes where far more is said about the performers than the music. Here it is the opposite – there is not a single word about any of them, just three photographs. This does allow 7 pages on the composers and works, though not evenly spread among them. Clementi and Pergolesi get a page and a half each, while Stamitz, Bach, Jommelli and Boccherini share a single paragraph.

There is no claim that the Pergolesi, Jommelli, Boccherini or Cambini are premiere recordings, but I could find no other versions. There is one of the Kozeluch, on Koch Schwann, so probably no longer available. The others all have a handful of recordings, and undoubtedly, there are better performances to be found for each of them. However, if you want a gathering together of off-the-beaten track Mozart era piano concertos, you could hardly go wrong with this, though you will need to grit your teeth on occasions and look past the orchestral contributions.

David Barker

Muzio Clementi
Concerto in C major [20:39]
Domenico Cimarosa
Concerto in B flat [19:23]
Giovanni Paisiello
Concerto No. 2 in F [16:32]
Carl Stamitz
Concerto in F [21:02]
Giovanni Pergolesi
Concerto for 2 pianos [10:35]
Leopold Kozeluch
Concerto for piano 4 hands [22:33]
Luigi Boccherini
Concerto in E flat [12:52]
Carlo Cambini
Concerto in G, op. 15/3 [14:01]
Niccoló Jommelli
Concerto in G [15:09]
Johann Christian Bach
Concerto in E flat, op. 7/5 [14:07]

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