Haydn: Symphony No. 49 in F minor; Lipatti: Piano Concerto in the Classical Style; Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K595
Julien Libeer (piano); Les Métamorphoses/Raphaël Feye
Evil Penguin EPRC 0029 64:42 mins
What an interesting recording: one of Haydn’s finest earlier symphonies, Mozart’s last piano concerto and Dinu Lipatti’s Concertino. Lipatti is remembered chiefly as a pianist of exquisite sensibility who died tragically young, but also composed with Dukas and Nadia Boulanger as tutors. The Concertino of 1936 embraces Bach and Scarlatti as influences; while there are moments of asperity, it is on the whole an emollient piece with the piano taking on more of a continuo role than full-blown concerto histrionics.
Inspired by such pioneers of the period instrument movement as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the musicians of Les Métamorphoses blend modern strings and wind with natural brass and gut strung double bass. The predominant sound is lean and well focused with a refreshing balance between strings and brass. The result in the Haydn symphony is a springy alertness underpinned by tight ensemble. Another innovation presented here is the use of a parallel-strung piano, as opposed to the familiar cross-strung version. This produces a welcome lightness in the upper register uncompromised by an overly resonant bass and middle. In the Lipatti concerto, the ensemble is less secure, although, as a whole there is a clear sense of the value of the work that does not patronise its overall simplicity. Both Les Métamorphoses and the soloist Julien Libeer take a refreshingly robust approach to Mozart’s last piano concerto. This is not a particularly subtle performance, but its direct nature is welcome when so often renditions of this concerto can seem overly evanescent.