Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat, K456; Piano Sonata No. 20 in D minor, K466

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat, K456; Piano Sonata No. 20 in D minor, K466
PERFORMER: Richard Goode (piano); Orpheus CO
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79439-2
The two performances of the mighty D minor concerto are contrasted not only by the coupling (K456, with Mozart’s cadenzas, is a marvel; K467 is beyond praise) and by the rich patina of a modern orchestra (the Orpheus, a chamber orchestra without conductor) against the sharp focus of a period-instrument group (conducted). They exhibit an intriguing reversal of stereotypes, for ‘modern’ Goode is cool, ‘period’ Cohen is flamboyant, even portentous (quite an achievement with an 18th-century piano). Goode plays Beethoven’s first-movement cadenza, no more inflated than the new ones he and Cohen produce elsewhere. He brings plenty of energy, and sensitivity to the slow movements, while controlling line better than Cohen, whose delays and down-beat accents, possibly intended rhetorically, sometimes sound like mechanical problems. There will be better choices according to either aesthetic; between these, the buyer not committed to period instruments will be happier with Goode.

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Zitterbart invitingly couples three JC Bach sonatas with the concertos Mozart (c1772) based on them; the concertos precede the sonatas, so to make comparisons one must select tracks. The use of cadenzas written by Mozart for concertos by Schröter seems bizarre but hardly matters with such thematically neutral music. The orchestra adopts 18th-century practices, but the instruments are modern and the recording is over-resonant (as is Cohen’s), to compensate, perhaps, for a somewhat dry solo performance. Julian Rushton