Piano Concertos Nos 11-13
Marie Kuijken & Veronica Kuijken (piano); La Petite Bande
Challenge Classics CC 72752 (hybrid CD/SACD)
The Kuijkens – daughters Marie and Veronica as fortepiano soloists, father Sigiswald as first violin – offer here the three keyboard concertos completed by the 26-year-old Mozart towards the end of 1782. Since he expressly designed them to allow his soloist to be accompanied by either full orchestra or ‘a quattro’, ie only a string quartet, these small-scale versions are not only authentic but, as Kuijken père argues in his booklet essay, especially rewarding in the way they highlight the extreme finesse and responsiveness of Mozart’s string writing. (In the same note Kuijken explains his choice of double bass to replace a cello on the bottom line.)
In these finely gauged readings, expertly recorded to place every detail of musical interplay in a just perspective, his point certainly comes across – the more so because unlike in earlier recordings of these ‘chamber’ Mozart concertos, all with modern piano, the fortepiano stays exactly in balance with the period-style string articulation. Since Marie (in the F major Concerto, K413) and Veronica Kuijken (in the A and C major, K414 and 415) are both scrupulously careful musicians, a feeling of gentle, cultivated musicianship pervades the disc’s 74 minutes, which anyone already familiar with its contents will appreciate.
What these performances lack, for my taste, is sufficiently full-blooded contact with the works’ verve, teeming variety of incident and, above all, Mozart’s unequalled mastery of structural sleight of hand to import a sense of theatre into the concert hall. Newcomers to the three concertos are therefore firmly directed to Kristian Bezuidenhout’s dazzlingly theatrical accounts with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (Harmonia Mundi).
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