Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 21 & 24 (Levin/AAM)
Robert Levin (fortepiano); Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr (AAM)
Piano Concertos: No. 21 in C, ‘Elvira Madigan’; No. 24 in C minor
Robert Levin (fortepiano); Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr
AAM AAM 041 55:28 mins
Thirty years ago, the Academy of Ancient Music began a series of Mozart piano concerto recordings on period instruments for Decca under Christopher Hogwood, with Robert Levin as soloist. The results were widely praised, and eight instalments were issued, but the project fell victim to the increasing challenges of the CD market, and was cancelled in 2001.
Now, to celebrate the AAM’s 50th anniversary this year (yes, we are all getting older!), the project has re-started. This new series is self-funded and self-published by the Academy; Levin uses a copy by Chris Maene of a fortepiano by Anton Walter similar to Mozart’s own instrument.
In the C major Concerto the piano dances and sparkles under Levin’s featherlight touch; his continuo playing is always audible in the orchestral tuttis, and the soloist emerges from the ensemble rather than competing with it. Levin springs surprises in many elaborations and decorations: a cheeky twiddle in the second subject of the first movement is echoed by the wind, in bar 183 he prefers a jaunty dotted rhythm in the autograph to that of the New Mozart Edition, while the cadenzas in the zippy last movement are extremely witty. In the darker C minor Concerto there are more challenges, and the internal orchestral balance makes brass chords overpower the strings at times. But the central Larghetto, like the famous Andante of the C major, is lifted with a light-toned eloquence that is very touching. Four more instalments are to come in 2023/24.