Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K414 (arr. piano quintet); Piano Quartet in E flat, K493

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K414 (arr. piano quintet); Piano Quartet in E flat, K493
PERFORMER: Alfred Brendel (piano); Alban Berg Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56962 2
‘Arr. Mozart’, claims the booklet cover apropos this chamber version of the Piano Concerto, K414, though ‘sanctioned’ would be somewhat nearer the mark. The piece belongs to the first group of concertos Mozart composed in Vienna, and to increase potential sales he took pains to avoid giving the wind instruments any thematic material of their own, so that the works would be suited to domestic music-making using no more than a piano and string quartet. It may well have been for performances in such less than ideal circumstances that Mozart habitually provided the piano part of his concertos with a ‘figured’ bass indicating the music’s harmony, so that the soloist could round out the texture during the ‘tutti’ passages. Alfred Brendel does just that, though quite discreetly, on this new recording, basing his additions largely on the missing oboe and horn parts. The performance as a whole is elegant, stylish, and hugely enjoyable.

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The E flat Piano Quartet, K493, with its concerto-like finale, makes an apt pairing; and for once that finale is treated as a genuine Allegretto, rather than a virtuoso romp. Some may prefer the smoother, less insistent string playing of the Beaux Arts Trio and Bruno Giuranna (Philips), though their finale is terribly fast. Better from that point of view, and a viable alternative to this new version, is the sparkling performance by Isaac Stern and co., with a particularly sensitive account of the piano part from Emanuel Ax. Misha Donat