Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 6, 8 & 9

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 6, 8 & 9
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano); Orchestra da Camera di Mantova/Carlo Fabiano
CATALOGUE NO: Hyperion CDA 67840

This disc contains two delightful, lightweight works and concludes with Mozart’s first great masterpiece. Angela Hewitt, in the booklet notes, pleads for Mozart’s early concertos, written mostly in his teens, to be taken more seriously, as she has come to do. But I have never heard an account of them which persuades me that they are more than the work of an extremely proficient and professional craftsmen. When the Concerto No. 9 begins, with the piano entering in the second bar, not only do we hear an innovation – one Mozart never repeated – but everything about the music registers as the work of an inspired master. It impresses partly by virtue of its scale, with an immense and sombre slow movement – the first concerto movement where one feels Mozart is writing a tragic aria for the soloist.
The astonishing difference between this Concerto and its predecessors, as we find it marked by, say, Mitsuko Uchida or Murray Perahia, deserves and is most clearly shown by a modern piano and a moderate-sized orchestra. Hewitt plays what sounds to be an early piano and is accompanied by a small orchestra, vibrato-less and rather bleak, which she conducts. I found her playing tasteful without being distinctive; given how powerful an effect this work usually has, I was left wanting something grander and more Romantic. Michael Tanner