Mozart Piano Concertos Nos 13 & 14
Is there a right way to play Mozart? Arguably, his universality transcends the limitations of any one style. His Shakespearean insights into the subtlety and depths of human nature require an expressive vocabulary of comparable range. These two wonderful Concertos have in common the fact that Mozart sanctioned their performance as chamber music, leaving out the winds and brass and slimming the forces down to piano and string quartet (here augmented by a double bass).
That said, these works, fortuitously paired, are most remarkable for their differences – as infectiously emphasised here by all concerned. Concerto No. 13 in C major, K415, originally incorporating trumpets and timpani, is stirringly ceremonial. From the very opening, everyone plays with irresistible verve, replete with big-boned rhythms, metrical pomp and a rich body of sound, demonstrating that musical ‘size’ is not primarily dependent on volume. Janina Fialkowska’s canny combination of rhetorical splendour and individual exuberance is beguiling – this is not delicate, decorative Mozart. Nit-pickers may occasionally detect a want of rhythmic precision in fast passagework, most notably in the finale of K415 and the ever-entertaining ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ variations.
In Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K449, one of Mozart’s most testing exercises in expressive ambiguity, the subtle conversational interplay is captured, aptly, with truly operatic aplomb. Fialkowska is at her invigorating best in the highly contrapuntal weave of the finale, where her unobtrusive enlivening of inner voices, most particularly in the bass, is simply exhilarating. Few performers capture so engagingly the sheer fun in Mozart.