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Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 11-13 (Novák/Wihan)

Matyáš Novák (piano); Wihan Quartet (Nimbus)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

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.

Novák supplies his own cadenzas in each concerto, likeably in the style of the music itself, and only sometimes veering maybe a little too close to Beethoven-style heft.

Malcolm Hayes