LABELS: BBC Legends
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat, K482; Sinfonia Concertante in E flat for violin & viola, K364
PERFORMER: Sviatoslav Richter (piano), Norbert Brainin (violin), Peter Schidlof (viola); ECO/Benjamin Britten
CATALOGUE NO: BBCB 8010-2 ADD
The Britten disc is worth acquiring for the splendid account of the Sinfonia concertante alone – fortunately so, since to appreciate the Aldeburgh Festival performance of the Piano Concerto K.482 requires a leap of faith. Needless to say, there is some magisterial playing from Richter; and Britten’s cadenzas, if something of an acquired taste, are fascinating. However, the recorded sound is poor, making it seem as though the piano were in another room, with the door closed.
As for the great Sinfonia concertante, no one in my experience played it better than Norbert Brainin and Peter Schidlof (half of the Amadeus Quartet), and this 1967 Queen Elizabeth Hall performance finds them at the peak of their form. Their warmth and eloquence would melt the hardest of hearts, and their first movement cadenza is itself a miracle of poise and elegance. Britten’s tempi are perfectly judged throughout.
Barenboim’s witty, stylish performances of Mozart’s first three original concertos are highly enjoyable. Perhaps the most immediately attractive of the pieces is K.238, whose romantically-inclined slow movement foreshadows the famous Andante of the Concerto K.467; but all are well worth exploring. A pity, though, that the substitute finale Mozart later provided for the first concerto, K175, is not included. Misha Donat