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Briefly Noted: Brautigam's Mozart Concertos

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Mozart, Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 26 (“Coronation”), R. Brautigam, Die Kölner Akademie, M. A. Willens

BIS-1944 SACD | 55'04"

[Vol. 1 | Vol. 2]
Ronald Brautigam’s complete traversal of the Mozart keyboard concertos, with Die Kölner Akademie, now has a third installment, due out from the Swedish BIS label later this month. It is the latest large project from the Dutch fortepiano specialist, who has released complete sonata cycles for Mozart and Beethoven, all performed on reconstructions of appropriate historical instruments by the American-born builder Paul McNulty.

For this disc Brautigam plays on McNulty’s copy of a fortepiano built around 1795 by the Salzburg-born maker Anton Walter, presumably fairly close to the earlier Walter fortepiano that Mozart acquired in 1782. The instrument’s lighter, more tinkling sound may take some getting used to for those accustomed to Mozart on a Steinway, but it has a beautiful tone, unlike the sometimes awkward clatter of some fortepianos. It helps Brautigam give a less weighted touch to this finesse-oriented music, in a pleasing envelope of sound from the older instruments of the Cologne-based historical instrument ensemble.

Conductor Michael Alexander Willens grew up in Chevy Chase (Md.), before heading off to study at Juilliard, and now serves as music director of Die Kölner Akademie. With Brautigam, he hits pleasing tempi in all six movements of the two concertos recorded here, no. 17 in G major and no. 26 in D major, the latter known as “Coronation” because Mozart later performed it in the week after the coronation of Emperor Leopold II. As explained in an authoritative booklet essay by Mozart specialist John Irving, the group’s performances are authentic down to the choice of scholarly edition for the score and choice of instrumentation. Brautigam plays Mozart’s cadenzas in no. 17 and supplies his own for no. 26, since none by Mozart survives.

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