Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K488; Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K491

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K488; Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K491
PERFORMER: Richard Goode (piano); Orpheus CO
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79489-2
Admirable as the unfolding series of Mozart concertos from Robert Levin and Christopher Hogwood has been, this new instalment is especially felicitous. Levin and Hogwood never forget that the original aim of these works was to seize and hold the attention of an audience. Toward that end they employ tightly sprung rhythms, sparkling articulation, marked dynamic and textural contrasts, and infectious vitality (produced by the spirit of improvisation that overflows into Levin’s cadenzas) that simply has to be heard to be appreciated. The two brilliant D major works (K175 and K451) respond particularly well to this treatment, and K449 worthily complements the magical account by Hephzibah Menuhin.

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Whether Richard Goode and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra project enough of the public dimension in which Levin and Hogwood revel is open to debate. I know no performances of these great works that sound more thoroughly distilled from love for and engagement with the music. The refinement, graciousness and acuity of Goode’s playing are treasurable, and the fluid, luminous contribution of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is beyond praise. Nevertheless, I react differently each time I hear these performances: sometimes they seem natural and animated, at others overlaid with a spiritualised determinism that induces claustrophobia. At the very least they are important accounts, the high point being a superb realisation of tragic and dramatic elements in the first movement of the C minor Concerto.

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Although I enjoy Patrick Cohen’s disc, his pianistic discourse incorporates many rhetorical, ‘meaningful’ inflections that derail line and tend to create a laboured quality, as in the interpolated minuet in the finale of K271. But Cohen achieves rapt intensity in the slow movement of K238, and the Limoges orchestra reveals unsuspected glories in this relatively neglected concerto. David Breckbill