COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart Piano Concertos
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K453; Piano Concerto No. 26 in D, K537
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (piano); Die Kolner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
CATALOGUE NO: BIS1944
The Coronation Concerto No. 26, K537, was once among the most popular of all Mozart’s Piano Concertos, and was even held up as a paradigm of his concerto style at its best. Certainly, it contains some striking ideas (and, in the finale, some hair-raising switches of key), but much of it – and particularly its slow movement – is disappointingly conventional in comparison with what we now think of as Mozart’s greatest and perhaps more personal piano concertos, such as the Jeunehomme, the D minor No. 20, or C minor No. 24. The Coronation poses a particular problem: Mozart wrote it in such a hurry that for long stretches, including the whole of the slow movement, he didn’t bother to notate the left-hand accompaniment in the solo part. Like most pianists, Ronald Brautigam uses the left-hand part that was added, sometimes skilfully, sometimes less so, when the Concerto was first published, some three years after Mozart’s death. He also supplies some much-needed ornamentation in the slow movement’s middle section, where the melodic line is obviously just an outline of what Mozart must have played himself. Brautigam’s tempos in both this piece and the finale are on the swift side, and for all the stylishness of his playing it’s possible to feel at times that he’s skating over the music’s surface.
No such danger in the great G major Concerto, K453. This is a really fine performance, with the slow movement’s sublime interplay between piano and winds perfectly judged, and the wit and drama of the variation finale vividly handled – especially in the opera buffa coda, where you can almost smell the greasepaint.