WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 15 & 16; Rondo in D, K382
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano); Die Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2064 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Two 1784 concertos are paired on this latest addition to the Ronald Brautigam-Cologne Academy BIS series. Both, Mozart predicted, would ‘make the player sweat’ – and indeed they call for tireless finger agility from the soloist, as well as infinite distinctiveness of touch and gracefulness of phrasing. Yet the two also demonstrate Mozart’s unique ability to create magically different dramatic scenarios (as it were) in different tonalities – the B flat Concerto, scampering with especial fleetness of foot in its hunting-horn finale, is among the most obviously delightful of all Mozart’s concertante works, whereas the D major, long underrated, marries brass-and-timpani ceremonial grandeur to an Andante of a lyrical delicacy highly original even by Mozart’s standard.
This is, therefore, an attractive CD coupling (albeit, lasting just under 54 minutes even with the addition of K382, another irresistible charmer). The series’s central source of strength remains Ronald Brautigam’s muscular yet sensitively nuanced command of Mozartian discourse in every aspect: for instance, his straightforward accounts of both concerto Andantes both show strong personal insight and moments of tender poetry. What slightly weakens the general impression of both – particularly the more imposingly scaled K451 – is the relatively puny complement of violins in the overall sound picture. You only have to go back to the 30-year-old Malcolm Bilson-John Eliot Gardiner Archiv recording to appreciate how much grander a ‘period’ K451 reading can sound without loss of intimacy or enlivening detail.