Mozart

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: ICA Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 21, K467; Piano Concerto No. 23, K488; Concert Rondo in A, K386
PERFORMER: Ingrid Jacoby (piano); Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
CATALOGUE NO: ICAC 5135

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Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 (the so-miscalled ‘Elvira Madigan’) has been so variously recorded that any new version needs to be special to contend. This one, recorded in Abbey Road Studios last summer, begins promisingly indeed with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields sounding deliciously crisp, expressive and life-like under their ageless director.

Then the piano comes in – and with it, the doubts. It is not just that the recording favours the Steinway over the orchestra, so that string and woodwind detail is occasionally obscured and the overall balance is remote from anything Mozart at his fortepiano would have expected. There is also a certain hardness about the piano timbre. American born, but resident in Britain, Ingrid Jacoby has been much praised, and she certainly commands a firm, finger-perfect technique. Yet, compared with, say, Murray Perahia in his coupling of the same two concertos on Sony, she sounds somewhat relentless in K467, and short on charm.

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The gentler Concerto No. 23, without trumpets and drums, gets the more nuanced performance, even if Jacoby’s articulation of the opening solo of the tragic F sharp minor slow movement is more notable for Classical poise than Romantic affect. Mozart’s own first-movement cadenza for this concerto survives; for K467 Jacoby uses her (lengthy) own, devised with Benjamin Kaplin, which emulates Mozart’s technique while somehow missing his style. The A major Concert Rondo makes an amiable fill-up – though Perahia manages to squeeze in the better-known D major Concert Rondo, K382 as well. Bayan Northcott