Howard Shelley performs Concertos by Clementi and FX Mozart

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Clementi,FX Mozart
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Clementi * FX Mozart
WORKS: Piano Concerto in C, Piano Concerto Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Sinfonieorchester St Gallen/ Howard Shelley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68126

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You can’t help feeling sorry for Franz Xaver Mozart: his Dad was a hard act to follow. Not that he ever knew him – he was just four months old when the great man died – but his efforts to market himself as ‘WA Mozart Jr’ fell largely on stony ground. The two concertos recorded here are tastefully written, and the opening movement of the E flat work includes excursions into some exotic keys, but they’re otherwise rather lacking in memorable ideas. Best are the slow movements – in the C major Concerto, a gently melancholic set of variations in the minor with an affecting major-mode coda; and in the E flat work, an expressive C minor Andante. Richard Wigmore’s perceptive booklet notes liken the latter piece to the Andantino from Mozart’s Jeunehomme Concerto K271, and we may also think of the slow movement, again in C minor, of the Concerto K482. Howard Shelley plays both pieces quite beautifully, investing each phrase with subtly understated expression.

Clementi composed his lone surviving concerto in the mid-1790s, when Mozart Junior was still a babe in arms. Again, it’s the slow movement that leaves the deepest impression: a rhapsodic meditation by the pianist on the orchestra’s initial melody. Shelley keeps the fine St Gallen Symphony Orchestra on its toes throughout, and the performances could hardly be bettered.

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Misha Donat