Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Next Generation Mozart Soloists vols. 1 & 2
Camerata Schweiz (Vol. 1), Mozarteumorchester Salzburg (Vol. 2)/Howard Griffiths
rec. 2021, Kirche Oberstrass, Zurich (1); Orchesterhaus, Salzburg (2)
Only available separately
ALPHA 794/795 [57:32 & 61:40]
These two CDs offer six solo concertos for four different instruments performed by six different artists, all in their twenties, with two orchestras, all under the Swiss-domiciled British conductor, Howard Griffiths conductor and artistic director of Orpheum, the foundation in Zürich dedicated to the advancement of young soloists.
The sparkling playing here bears witness to the excellence of the pool of rising talent which has been fostered first in the world’s conservatories; all six young musicians here already have important solo careers, playing with major orchestras worldwide.
Five of the concertos here are early works; only the horn concerto – by far the best known of the works presented – was written in Mozart’s maturity, when he was thirty. The rest were composed in his teens, except for the ‘Lützow Concerto’, written when he was twenty for the talented niece of Salzburg’s Prince-Archbishop. As such, the programmes present a pleasing balance of the familiar and not so well-known and are thus refreshingly novel and unhackneyed, especially when performed as they are here with such enthusiasm and elan.
it is remarkable how the early works already recognisably feature and prefigure many of the tropes and tricks of Mozart’s later compositions and, as ever, Schnabel’s bon mot about the piano sonatas comes to mind: “Too easy for amateurs, too hard for professionals” (or whatever variation of that wording and idea you have encountered). They often first sound deceptively simple in mood and melody – although they are invariably challenging from a technical point of view, regardless of the instrument for which they are written. In all but one case, the soloists use their own cadenzas and there are lots of little surprises and novelties if you are not familiar with these works, such as the prominence of the horn in dialogue with the piano in K.246, but they are all generally elegant, effervescent and constantly inventive, such that the listener is never bored – and certainly the performers convey their engagement with them, sounding as if they are enjoying themselves. The skill Ivo Dudler displays in his account of the Horn Concerto is especially impressive given how notoriously prone to slips even the best horn-players can be; he plays the famous Rondo flawlessly. Even if I won’t necessarily be jettisoning versions by Dennis Brain, David Pyatt and Anthony Halstead, Dudler may hold his head high in such company. The sound engineering for his concerto is especially pleasing, too, conveying the round beauty of his tone.
The third Violin Concerto which opens the second disc will probably be the other item most familiar to listeners and Ziyu He’s account of it is sweet and assured, making the most of its uninterrupted melodiousness without milking it. He displays some impressive double-stopping in his own cadenza – although I am not sure how genuinely Mozartian it is in idiom…The Adagio is surely one of the most beautiful tunes Mozart wrote and the abrupt, questioning conclusion to the finale is always a surprise. Although the bassoon concerto may be an oft-requested audition piece, I suspect that it will be new to many collectors, even those of the seasoned variety. It explores the instrument’s entire range and acts as a showcase for Theo Plath’s undoubted virtuosity; he displays remarkable dexterity. The heavy rustic tread of the famous main theme in the concluding rondo acts as a perfect foil to his floridly elaborated solo line. Finally, comes Mozart’s first complete piano concerto, No. 5, written when he was seventeen. It is the grandest work here and is given a suitably bravura treatment by Mélodie Zhao who effortlessly tosses off its pyrotechnics, providing plenty of weight of tone as well as fluency – and even the orchestra sounds bigger, too. The beginning of the finale evinces the kind of zest which makes the opening the contemporaneous Symphony No. 25 so memorably infectious.
Howard Griffiths’ tempi are pleasingly brisk and his accompaniments are lithe and transparent, the chamber orchestras numbering only around twenty or so players, as far as I can tell – but quite sufficient for these smaller scale works.
The recordings are very clean and close – sometimes rather too revealing of the soloists’ heavy breathing and the occasional conductorial grunt but not distractingly so.
The CDs are packaged in slimline, cardboard slipcases, with brief but helpful and informative notes, short biographies, black and white photos of the recording sessions and in the inner sleeves, colour portraits of the artists taken while playing.
Occasionally, I do not hesitate to designate recordings as “shelf-cloggers” once I have reviewed them and “rehome” them – but these are keepers. Presumably more volumes will be forthcoming; on this showing, they will be most desirable.
Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat major, K.207 [19:55]
(Cadenzas by Stephen Waarts)
Piano Concerto No. 8 in C major, K.246 [21:08]
(Cadenzas by Can Çakmur)
Horn Concerto in E flat major, K.495 [16:12]
(Cadenzas by Ivo Dudler)
Stephen Waarts (violin); Can Çakmur (piano); Ivo Dudler (horn)
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K.216 [23:22]
(Cadenzas by Sam Franko)
Bassoon Concerto in G flat major, K.191/186e [16:40]
(Cadenzas by Theo Plath)
Piano Concerto No. 5 in D major, K.175 [21:34]
(Cadenzas by Mélodie Zhao)
Ziyu He (violin); Theo Plath (bassoon); Mélodie Zhao (piano)