Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 11, 20 & 21

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 11, 20 & 21
PERFORMER: Vassily Primakov (piano); Odense Symphony/Simon Gaudenz
CATALOGUE NO: Bridge 9339

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Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 11 in F, K413 is something of a neglected stepchild among Mozart’s mature concertos. It is perhaps the most intimate of them all, and in keeping with its undemonstrative character Mozart allows the music simply to fade away into the distance at the end. Vassily Primakov and Simon Gaudenz give an appropriately chamber-like performance, and their liking for lively tempos is notable not only in the triple-time opening Allegro of this work, but also in the first movement of the D minor Concerto, K466.

While most conductors strive to maintain a veiled atmosphere in the opening bars of this much more famous piece, Gaudenz has the nervously syncopated string parts played in a spiky detached manner – definitely more agitato than misterioso. It’s a refreshingly different approach, and one that effectively sets the music on edge right from the start. Primakov’s playing is effectively dramatic, and in the central stage of the opening movement he packs quite a punch, making liberal use of the sustaining pedal. He plays Beethoven’s first-movement cadenza but looks elsewhere for the finale, to a cadenza by Christian Zacharias which invokes a fleeting reference to the demonic world of Don Giovanni, in the same key of D minor.

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In the Concerto K467, Primakov uses the attractive cadenzas by Dinu Lipatti, but provides his own improvisatory lead-ins where called for at other moments. His limpid playing is a pleasure throughout these performances, as is the Odense Symphony Orchestra’s stylish contribution. Misha Donat