Mozart: Piano Concertos: No. 9 in E flat, K271 (Jenamy/Jeunehomme); No. 12 in A, K414; Rondo in A, K386

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Piano Concertos: No. 9 in E flat, K271 (Jenamy/Jeunehomme); No. 12 in A, K414; Rondo in A, K386
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (piano); Cologne Academy/Michael Alexander Willens
CATALOGUE NO: BIS SACD-1794

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The Jeunehomme Concerro K271 is arguably the work in which Mozart first revealed the full extent of his genius. He was in the month of his 21st birthday, and the concerto is astonishingly original at every turn, with the soloist continually invading the traditional territory of the orchestra (nowhere more strikingly so than in the very second bar of the opening tutti), and a deeply-felt slow movement in the style of a tragic operatic scena.

The Concerto K414, in Mozart’s lyrical A major vein, was tailored to more conservative Viennese taste, though it’s scarcely less beautiful for that. The attractive Rondo K386, which survives in a slightly incomplete form, was once thought to be a first attempt at a finale for K414, but it’s more likely to have arisen as an independent piece.

The Cologne Academy is a small band, with a string section perhaps better suited to the chamber style of K414 than to the grander sonorities of the Jeunehomme, but its playing under Michael Alexander Willens is lively and stylish throughout. Ronald Brautigam is as discreet about playing during tuttis, where he restricts himself to an occasional doubling of the bass-line, as he is about added ornamentation.

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What’s impressive about his playing is not just its sprightliness, but also its expressive character, with the latter quality particularly evident in the intensity he brings to the slow movement of K271. If you prefer your Mozart concertos played on period instruments, you’re unlikely to find better performances than these. Misha Donat