Haydn, Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K414

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COMPOSERS: Haydn,Mozart
LABELS: Decca Britten at Aldeburgh
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K414
PERFORMER: Aldeburgh Festival Orchestra/Benjamin Britten (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 458 869-2 ADD mono Reissue (1956)
These two discs conveniently isolate different facets of Benjamin Britten’s interpretative artistry. The tempo in the first movement, Mozart’s K414 is bracing but almost out of control, while the sound features wiry strings and a peculiarly captured piano sonority. As compensation, the second movement offers rapt music-making – listen to how perfectly Britten judges the timing and attack of his first entrance – and, in the cadenza, a hint of Schumann’s Dichterliebe. Both the finale and Haydn’s Symphonies Nos 45 and 55 are deliciously inflected and characterised, to the audible delight of the audience. The forceful puckishness that dominates Britten’s work in these 1956 performances is not his only effective mode of expression, however. The Mozart symphonies from 1962 and 1966 on the other disc, featuring a larger orchestra and more rounded, recessed sound, encase Britten’s customary fervour in greater elegance. My only complaint is that the finale of No. 39 seems less than ideally winged. In the concert arias that round out the all-Mozart disc, Peter Pears achieves singing as mellifluous (despite some aspirates) as any I’ve heard from him – which means that it lacks the last degree of involvement for which I admire his most memorable work. David Breckbill