Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 11 in F, K413; Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K453; Piano Concerto No. 19 in F, K459

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 11 in F, K413; Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K453; Piano Concerto No. 19 in F, K459
PERFORMER: Budapest Festival Orchestra/Zoltán Kocsis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 456 577-2
The wind instruments are important in Mozart’s piano concertos, but here they are thrust to the front of the stage in a way which quickly becomes overbearing. The strings are proportionately distant, but still have a hard glint to them, and that’s true of the performances as well. The tempo marking of the opening movement of K459 is quoted here as allegro vivace (my score says only allegro) and the music is always pushing ahead, without time to breathe. And even though it’s over 11 minutes long, it comes across as insubstantial and perfunctory. That’s not just a matter of speed: Barenboim adopts a similar tempo in his Berlin recording, but injects a level of phrasing which allows the music flexibility. Unfortunately, things don’t improve for Kocsis as the CD continues. The Allegretto which follows is very straight – not that it needs to be sentimentalised, but sentiment should be there – and the last movement falls over itself. Similar characteristics inform the other two concertos: snatched ornaments rob the minuet finale of K413 of poise; and the magical changes of harmony in the first movement of K453 are almost completely unacknowledged. In the last movement of this concerto, things perk up with some nice phrasing of the main theme, but by then it’s too late. If you like the coherence of approach that results from the soloist directing the orchestra, Howard Shelley and the London Mozart Players respond to the music’s light and shade, and allow it the space to make its effect without browbeating it. Martin Cotton

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