Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat major K450; Piano Concerto No. 16 in D major K451

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat major K450; Piano Concerto No. 16 in D major K451
PERFORMER: András Schiff (piano), Salzburg Mozarteum Camerata Academica/Sándor Végh
CATALOGUE NO: 433 374-2 DDD
Mozart described these two works, written in the spring of 1784, as ‘concertos to make one sweat’; but he conceded that K450 was harder than its companion. Perhaps he was thinking of passages such as those in the finale that have the player’s hands constantly crossing over each other. This is the first of Mozart’s concertos to feature the wind instruments in a prominent role, and it is one of the most subtly orchestrated of them all.

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The D major K451 is among the least known of the mature concertos, and it is true that there is something oddly impersonal about the military-style grandeur of its first movement. The finale’s theme is one of Mozart’s very rare Haydn imitations, and it can sound comparatively weak in lesser hands. No danger of that here – indeed, the most inspired moment in these performances occurs during its coda, where the music undergoes a rhythmic transformation. Most interpreters regard this as an opportunity for a helter-skelter finish, but Végh and Schiff do the opposite. Their slower tempo lends the music a quite irresistible lilt. It is only one detail among many on a disc that seems to capture spontaneous music-making on the wing. Misha Donat