Mozart: Symphony No. 38 in D (Prague); Ch’io mi scordi di te… Non temer, amato bene, K505; Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, K503

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: Symphony No. 38 in D (Prague); Ch’io mi scordi di te… Non temer, amato bene, K505; Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, K503
PERFORMER: Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano); Lausanne CO/Christian Zacharias (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 340 0967-2
The programme itself is a neat idea: three works – symphony, concert aria and concerto – with consecutive Köchel numbers, all completed within the same month, December 1786. And their juxtaposition here underlines the links between the Prague Symphony and the C major Concerto, K503, whose first movements are unequalled in their breadth, massiveness and contrapuntal splendour. In contrast, Ch’io mi scordi di te, with its concerto-like piano part, is the most intimately personal of Mozart’s concert arias, written for performance by the composer himself and the first Susanna in Figaro, Nancy Storace, and once memorably described as ‘the most mature love-letter ever written in music’.

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Of the three works the concert aria comes off best, sung with just the right balance of grace and pathos by Bernarda Fink, with her warm, cleanly focused mezzo and shapely sense of phrase. In both the symphony and the concerto the performances, while enjoyable enough, tend to be too small-scaled and cautiously characterised to bring out the full grandeur of Mozart’s conceptions. In the Prague’s first-movement development, one of the composer’s most miraculous polyphonic feats, Zacharias fails to generate the requisite tension and inexorable sense of growth; and, with slightly thin-toned violins, the movement’s climax does not blaze as it can –and does in the version from Mackerras and the comparably scaled Prague Chamber Orchestra. Nor can the sensuous chromaticism of the Andante make its full expressive effect at this swift, rigidly held tempo. Zacharias is a fastidious soloist in the C major Concerto, and adds tasteful ornamentation in the Andante. But I wish he could have projected more assertively, and with a more majestic sweep, in the outer movements. Among many fine performances, Brendel (with Marriner) and Schiff (with Végh) both convey that much more powerfully than Zacharias the music’s brilliance, lyrical breadth and architectural magnificence. Richard Wigmore