Piano Concerto No. 11 in F, K413; Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K414; Piano Concerto No. 13 in C, K415 (arr. piano and string quartet)
Matyáš Novák (piano); Wihan Quartet
Nimbus NI6419 77:37 mins
Mozart himself made these chamber adaptations of the first three piano concertos he composed soon after settling in Vienna in 1781 as a freelance composer-pianist. In each of them, the combination of an orchestral ‘feel’ with string-quartet reality requires a kind of circle-squaring from its performers that can be difficult to bring off – and is specially memorable when it succeeds to the wonderful degree that it does here.
The Wihan Quartet’s collective sound has a rounded fullness and mellow, tawny-brown colouring which, besides being handsome in itself, also means that they never have to force any kind of would-be orchestral effect. And on this form, Matyáš Novák is yet another of today’s wonderful vintage of young pianists; playing on a modern concert grand, he nonetheless judges the music’s interplay between keyboard and solo strings with poised precision. In the F major Concerto, K413, his way with the piano’s ‘surprise’ first entry (always somehow a small miracle, however well you know it’s coming) is beautifully judged, and quality of this kind from all involved never lets up.
The players’ collective delivery of the A major Concerto, K414, features more in the way of little tempo adjustments within each movement, but they always seem to work; and the grander, C major manner of K415 requires an implied expansion of the overall sound that’s conjured superbly.