WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat, K456; Piano Concerto No. 19 in F, K459
PERFORMER: Robert Levin (fortepiano); Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood
CATALOGUE NO: 452 051-2
Alicia de Larrocha has come in for some rather negative comments recently from the British press – that her conception of Mozart is faintly superficial, does not reveal the music’s possibilities, and so on. This elegantly played CD does not entirely efface that impression, even with Colin Davis’s superior accompaniment and a good recording. As soon as one puts on Moravec’s CD of K503, one hearswhat one has been missing – this is a profound reading with many subtleties of touch and altogether a more weighty approach, especially evident in the slow movement. K491 is predictably dramatic. Marriner’s orchestra is excellent, especially the trumpets and timpani in K503’s opening movement.
If you favour period-instrument Mozart, the Levin-Hogwood series continues brilliantly, and even the musical texts put the standard critical edition (Neue Mozart-Ausgabe) out of date – Clifford Eisen’s elegant notes are instructive, as usual. Both concertos are played immaculately by Levin, a talent of staggering proportions, and Hogwood’s accompaniment is perfect.
Burnett’s recording contains two Mozart concertos arranged for piano and string quartet – a sales ploy of the period to enable buyers to play the works in their own homes – and also a post-1791 arrangement of the quintet for piano and wind instruments (K452) in a transcription for piano and string quartet. I see these arrangements as historical curiosities, despite the beautiful piano used – a Rosenberger (Vienna c1795) – and well-balanced recording. Why omit the orchestra, with its shining trumpets, in K415? HC Robbins Landon