Mozart: Concertos in E flat, K417, K447 & K495; Concerto in D, K412; Rondo in E flat, K371

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LABELS: Sony Vivarte
WORKS: Concertos in E flat, K417, K447 & K495; Concerto in D, K412; Rondo in E flat, K371
PERFORMER: Ab Koster (natural horn); Tafelmusik/Bruno Weil
This collection, amounting to 12 delightful movements, may nevertheless worry certain kinds of listener. Lovers of the modern-day valve horn may dislike the tonal discrepancy between open and muffled stopped notes, apparent in the first solo entry in K417 and every few moments thereafter. Koster’s lush hand-horn tone mildly accentuates this imbalance, even in the resourceful slow movements when brilliance is not required and where the effect to my ear is as much haunting as disturbing. On the other hand, puritans may disapprove of the two movements heard in new completions by Robert Levin, who contributes an excellent booklet note. Levin is sensitive, but he restores some passages Mozart himself struck out to accommodate the decaying technique of the dedicatee, Leutgeb. Levin offers a few more bars than usual in the Rondo, K371, and removes all traces of Süssmayr from K412, without persuading me that either is the equal of the three great concertos: K412, the only piece not in E flat, and lacking a slow movement, seems unworthy of Mozart’s last year, where scholars now place it. Nevertheless, and despite over-extended cadenzas, the soloist’s energy and the springy rhythms of Tafelmusik make for enjoyable listening throughout. Julian Rushton