Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 14, K449& 21, K467; Recitative and Rondo: ‘Ch’io mi Scordi di te?’

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 14, K449& 21, K467; Recitative and Rondo: ‘Ch’io mi Scordi di te?’
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano), Carolyn Sampson (soprano); Die Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2054 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This eighth issue in Ronald Brautigam’s Mozart concerto series for BIS maintains high standards: indeed, it proves every bit as immediate and lively in musical approach as its predecessors. Brautigam, bearing out his reputation as a musical and intellectual powerhouse, animates every note and phrase marking; his Cologne partners – once again small orchestral forces are used – support him with muscular forcefulness, grace and sensitivity. Even to people who think they know these much-recorded concertos backwards, my guess is that these readings will sound fresh and full of adventure.

This is certainly the case with the earlier work, the extraordinarily subtle, original K449, one of Mozart’s most tightly unified, closely meshed small-ensemble concertos. In tempo choice – the slow movement taken at a true Andantino – and style of unfolding, the performance combines intimacy, delicacy and awareness of structural originality in a way that approaches the ideal. In the C major, K467, nowadays perhaps the most popular of all Mozart’s concertante works and one laid out on a far grander scale, the same concern to extract dramatic meaning from tempo markings soon becomes apparent (though here, also, a want of fibre in the violin sonority).

While admiring Brautigam’s determination to keep the famous Andante movement properly forward-moving, I found myself regretting the impression of brisk, unatmospheric dispatch that results. And Carolyn Sampson, though musicianly and responsive to the text, lacks sufficient weight of soprano tone to bring real emotional depth to the concert-aria bonus.

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Max Loppert