Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 20 & 27

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 20 & 27
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K595
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (piano); Die Kolner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2014 (hybrid CD/SACD

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Ronald Brautigam and Michael Alexander Willens are never exactly slouches when it comes to tempos, and they give a breathlessly agitated account of the opening movement of the D minor Concerto K466. Its intensity is enhanced by the fact that Brautigam provides his own admirably compact cadenza in place of the one by Beethoven that’s virtually become an accepted part of the piece (see p106).

Mozart described the middle movement of this concerto as a ‘Romance’, but didn’t provide a tempo marking for it. Brautigam and Willens treat it as more of an Allegretto than an Andante, and perhaps at their speed the fleeting triplet motion of its dramatic middle section slightly lacks weight. In the coda of the concluding rondo, where the music so unexpectedly turns from minor to major, Brautigam and Willens increase their already fast tempo, as though trying to manufacture an opera buffa conclusion like that of the of the G major Concerto, K453. But in this case the coda is entirely based on material from the earlier portion of the piece, acting as a resolution of its conflicts, so the acceleration isn’t really called for. That said, this is a thoroughly compelling account of this famous masterpiece.

Mozart’s last Piano Concerto, K595, is scored for a comparatively small orchestra, and here Brautigam plays along discreetly during the tutti sections. Again, the slow movement is decidedly on the flowing side – a bit short on melancholy, perhaps – but the performance as a whole is one that commands attention. Recommended.

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Misha Donat