WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat K271; Piano Concerto No. 12 in A K444
PERFORMER: Robert Levin (piano)AAM/Christopher Hogwood
CATALOGUE NO: 443 328-2 DDD
In the 19th century, when most of Mozart’s piano concertos were virtually unknown, the Coronation K537, remained one of his most popular works. To late 20th-century ears, however, this easy-going piece seems the least characteristic of all his mature concertos. It is also the most problematic: not only did Mozart not bother to write out the left-hand part for long stretches, but the simple, repetitive melody of the slow movement clearly calls for elaboration by the soloist. Like most pianists, de Larrocha follows the rather patchy realisation of the left-hand part made by Mozart’s publisher Johann Anton Andre, and she offers no adornment in the Andante. More forgivably, she adopts the long discredited practice of appropriating the cadenza from Mozart’s previous D major Concerto, K45 1 , for the first movement.
In the case of the two concertos on Levin’s disc, which marks the start of a new cycle, Mozart’s own cadenzas have survived. Entering into the spirit of authenticity with a vengeance, however, Levin casts them aside, and bravely improvises his own. His energetic style could hardly contrast more strongly with de Larrocha’s disappointingly soft-grained approach, but he is let down by the short-breathed phrasing and sometimes insecure intonation of the Academy of Ancient Music.
Steering a middle course between the solidly traditional approach of Davis and de Larrocha, and the fashionable authenticity of Hogwood and Levin, is Howard Shelley’s
ongoing Mozart series with the London Mozart Players which he directs from the keyboard. These are stylish performances, and the splendid K459, with its elaborately
contrapuntal finale, is brilliantly handled. Misha Donat