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Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 9 & 17

Alon Goldstein (piano); Fine Arts Quartet, et al (Naxos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
8574164_Mozart

Mozart
Piano Concertos Nos 9 & 17 (arr. Lachner)
Alon Goldstein (piano), Alexander Bickard (double bass); Fine Arts Quartet
Naxos 8.574164   63:46 mins

In the late 19th century, 12 of Mozart’s piano concertos were arranged for string quartet and double bass by the conductor and composer Ignaz Lachner, ostensibly to meet the demand for Mozart’s works in arrangements suitable for domestic performance. Mozart himself had beaten him to it some 100 years earlier, arranging four of his early concertos for the same combination of instruments. Yet this premiere recording of two of Lachner’s transcriptions shows how well he understood his material, even if, as pianist Alon Goldstein points out, Mozart’s orchestration of his later works is far more reliant on woodwind for effect.

This is Goldstein and the Fine Arts Quartet’s second recording of Lachner’s transcriptions, here No. 9 – the Jeunehomme – and No. 17. The piano part, as in all Lachner’s Mozart transcriptions, remains entirely untouched – and Goldstein uses Mozart’s cadenzas here – but the orchestral parts, including the brilliant colours of the woodwind, are skilfully and effectively incorporated into the string parts, improbable though that might seem.

The dazzling clarity of Goldstein’s piano is finely matched by the quartet and double bassist Alexander Bickard, who colour their playing as if aware of both the responsibility of standing in for an entire orchestra, and showing what utterly convincing pieces of chamber music these transcriptions are. Jeunehomme sparkles in the Allegro and the ‘Rondeau’, yet is full of sombre depth in the Adagio, the double bass adding fine breadth. This chamber ensemble brings similar conviction to the No. 17, vigorous in approach, full of expressive and balanced interplay between soloist and musicians.

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Sarah Urwin Jones