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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major K467 (1785) [25:56]
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major K482 (1785) [32:40]
Christian Ihle Hadland (piano)
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Arvid Engegård
rec. 2011, Oslo Konserthaus
SIMAX PSC1323 [64:59]

Following my recent very positive review of Christian Ihle Hadland and the Oslo Philharmonic, performing quintets by Mozart, Beethoven and Danzi (Lawo), I was very keen to hear the same musicians in these two concertos. The disc was released a few years ago but have not yet been reviewed here. Writing about The Lark, Göran Forsling pointed out, in 2016, that Hadland, who is a former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, has for more than ten years made a name as one of the foremost Norwegian classical musicians. His gifts are as solo pianist but also as accompanist and chamber musician. Hadland had also attracted attention in a disc where he accompanies Isa Katharina Gericke in a song recital in tribute to Eva Nansen (review). I should also mention that Hadland has been heard with violinist Henning Kraggerud in a delightful programme of music by Christian Sinding (review). The auguries seem very positive for the present disc and they are not misplaced.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 is one of his most popular works. Among a wealth of recordings, I value especially Dinu Lipatti, from 1948 with Karajan and the Philharmonia in the Icon set reviewed by Jonathan Woolf. There also a disc of Annie Fischer recordings reviewed by Gwyn Parry-Jones. Stephen Kovacevich’s magnificent recording with Colin Davis, I reviewed back in September 2006. In the well-written notes, Malcolm Macdonald states that if Piano Concerto No.20, with its infusion of “sturm und drang”, is Mozart’s most theatrical concerto, No. 21 is his most lyrical. Very apt, as in Hadland’s reading, I’ve not heard it given more lyrical wings. It certainly isn’t heavyweight and the Oslo Philharmonic sound just the right size, compared to the previous generation. It has an appealing freshness that I’d noticed in the quintets. Perhaps I just miss a more serious quality, which may be a hangover from the work of older performers. The slow movement was used in Bo Widerberg’s film Elvira Madigan and for a time, the concerto acquired that incorrect name on record sleeves. The usual time taken by performers such as Géza Anda in his famous DG recording (review), is about 7:30 whereas Hadland takes just 5:30. The younger player refuses any temptation to wallow; after hearing it several times, I think it works. The final movement goes with gusto and throughout the winds, in particular, are magnificent. The orchestra are very well conducted by Arvid Engegård who was born in Bodø, North Norway in 1963. When he was eleven, Arvid led his first string quartet in concerts throughout Norway, and gave his first solo performance with orchestra in Mozart’s Piano Concerto K488. He clearly has a genuine feel for Mozart.

Piano Concerto No. 22 starts with a strong unison theme. Fanfare-like, it is imposing and sets the scene for a more serious work than its immediate predecessor. There are again very fine alternatives available; in particular that by Alfred Brendel (Decca 4425712) and by the indispensable Murray Perahia (Sony). I always love the “argument’ Mozart puts forward in this movement and the way the piano interplays with the orchestra. Hadland is very warm and sunny here. What is special are the cadenzas, dating from 1966, by Benjamin Britten. Britten, was a very fine Mozart conductor and his recording with Clifford Curzon of Piano Concertos 20 and 27 (Decca) is one of my Desert Island Discs. He made a BBC recording of this work, which appears unavailable at present, with Sviatoslav Richter, presumably playing the cadenzas. They are certainly original and effective, quoting other Mozart works and show Britten’s great affinity with Mozart. A theme and variations are at the heart of the “andante” and again the dialogue between pianist and ensemble is very effective. The cheerful final Rondo has hints of Cosi fan Tutte which was to follow in 1790. This can especially be heard in the wind writing near the end. Those Britten cadenzas add a special touch. This always seems to be one of his happiest movements and as throughout there’s Hadland’s lightness of touch which is most winning.

This is an excellent disc of two magnificent Mozart piano concertos. It has been a great pleasure to hear them, albeit a few years after their release. There’s no doubt that Mr Hadland is a superb Mozartian. More please.

David R Dunsmore

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