LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat; K456; Piano Concerto No. 19 in F, K459
PERFORMER: Melvyn Tan (fortepiano); Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907138 DDD
Perhaps the fortepiano, not the harpsichord, is the most problematic instrument of the old music revival, especially in concertos. On discs the problems of balance, which are often serious in concert, can be solved by placement of microphone and choice of hall. Record companies do seem to be improving their balance in fortepiano concertos, and one example is this Teldec CD of Andreas Staier with Concerto Köln. There is no doubt that he has made a special study of K271 (Jeunehomme), the most forward-looking and formally daring of all Mozart’s piano concertos before 1785. The playing and accompaniments are extraordinarily subtle, and the performance of the G major K453 is equally well thought out and perfectly recorded. Even with Gieseking and Schnabel (and Kirkpatrick’s pioneer LP on the fortepiano made in 1950) as previous standards, Staier with his reconstructed instrument (after Anton Walter, c1785) surpasses all rivals. It will, I am sure, become a touchstone.
Melvyn Tan and the Los Angeles-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra directed by Nicholas McGegan are very good indeed in two much-loved concertos of 1784, but not quite in the Staier/Concerto Köln league. I found the tempi, especially in the opening movement of K459, not rock-solid (the cadenza seemed to speed up: another take?) and the recording, while accurate, is not tonally as pleasing. The orchestra is not as skilled as Concerto Köln, and I thought that Tan lacked the ultimate involvement with the music so admirably displayed on the Teldec CD.