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Briefly Noted: Mozart's Piano Concertos

available at Amazon
Mozart, Piano Concertos 6/8/9, A. Hewitt, Orchestra da Camera di Mantova, C. Fabiano
(Hyperion, 2011)

Nos. 17/27 (with Hannu Lintu, 2013)

available at Amazon
Mozart, Piano Concertos 20/27, R. Brautigam (fortepiano), Die Kölner Akademie, M. A. Willens

(released on October 29, 2013)
BIS-2014 | 53'34"
Two new cycles of Mozart's piano concertos are worth mentioning again, starting with the refined traversal by Angela Hewitt, on a modern grand piano and with the modern instruments of the Orchestra da Camera di Mantova, sometimes without a conductor. (The most recent volume, not yet heard, is led by Hannu Lintu.) Hewitt plays Mozart's cadenzas, except for some early ones she finds too brief, which she replaces with her own, and down to her own fastidious program notes, Hewitt's performances seem historically informed, except for the small matter of instruments. In this volume of the Salzburg-era concertos, we are two steps away from what Mozart had in mind, since at least some of these pieces were likely intended for harpsichord. Hewitt would be a pleasing option for listeners who prefer their Mozart on modern instruments, because these are immaculately polished performances (ranking with some other recent candidates, like Leif Ove Andsnes with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, and Maurizio Pollini with members of the Vienna Philharmonic).

To have greater insight into what Mozart was likely dealing with in terms of the expectations he had for the instruments he used, we recommend Ronald Brautigam's traversal of the concertos on fortepiano. (The series goes back only as far as no. 9, the so-called "Jeunehomme," a sobriquet now understood as a butchering of the surname of the dedicatee, Victoire Jenamy, the daughter of the choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre, the first of the composer's concerti unambiguously conceived for fortepiano.) We have written of this series before (see my note on the third volume), and it continues high in my estimation. Brautigam performs again on an instrument by Paul McNulty, based on a fortepiano made by Anton Walter, which gives a sound that is both authentic and not ugly. Brautigam, who plays with panache, uses Mozart's cadenzas for K. 595, but as both Beethoven and Mendelssohn did when they played no. 20, Brautigam uses his own cadenzas in the D minor concerto (K. 466). The booklet essay is once again by musicologist John Irving, who literally wrote the book on the Mozart piano concerti. This set, pleasing for the interesting, contained wind sounds from Die Kölner Akademie and the brilliant fingerwork of Brautigam, does not supplant the Academy of Ancient Music recordings, with Robert Levin improvising on fortepiano (regrettably not yet re-released as a box set), but it does rank above the partial set by the Freiburger Barockorchester, with Andreas Staier on fortepiano, and the English Baroque Soloists, with Malcolm Bilson on fortepiano (collected in a box set priced to move).

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