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Mozart: Piano Concertos Vol. 11 - Ronald Brautigam/Michael Alexander Willens

Mozart: Piano Concertos Vol. 11 - Ronald Brautigam/Michael Alexander Willens

BIS  BIS-2094

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Mozart: Piano Concertos 1-4

Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
Die Kölner Akademie
Michael Alexander Willens (conductor)


Throughout the ten previous discs in their series of Mozart’s complete piano concertos, Ronald Brautigam and Die Kölner Akademie have offered up fresh, sometimes bracing readings of these perennial favourites. ‘An ideal mixture of clarity and stylish effervescence’ (International Record Review), ‘as near as dammit what Mozart’s audiences would have heard’ (Classic FM Magazine) and ‘a completely new, crisp ‘Mozart-feel’ for the 21st century’ (Stereoplay) are just some of the responses from the international music press. Various instalments have also received special recommendations from websites and magazines such as Klassik-Heute.de, Luister, Scherzo and, most recently, Gramophone, which listed volume 6 (BIS-1844) among its ‘50 greatest Mozart recordings’.

In this final volume we are treated to Mozart’s very earliest attempts in the genre – the four so-called ‘pasticcio concertos’ from 1767. In these works, the 11-year old budding composer expands existing sonata movements into proper concertos, possibly partly as an exercise given him by his father Leopold. For a long time the concertos were thought of as original works, and it was only at the start of the 20th century that the truth began to emerge. Of the twelve movements that make up these concertos, eleven are based on keyboard sonatas by other composers, and only one – the slow movement of K 37 – is an original composition, probably a collaboration between father and son. A few years later Mozart would adopt a similar approach in the three unnumbered concertos K 107 (appearing on the previous disc in this series), which were arrangements of sonatas by Johann Christian Bach. But in the case of concertos 1-4, each work is based on originals by more than one composer, and while the K 107 set are arrangements for keyboard and strings, the scorings here include woodwinds, and in K 40 also trumpets

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - October 15, 2016

With this final volume BIS bring to an end the complete series of Mozart piano concerti. And ‘complete means complete’. In many sets either these four so called 'pasticcio concerti', believed to be of dubious origin (?), the three arrangements of sonatas by Johann Christian Bach, or the concerti for two and three pianos are omitted. BIS have them all, and even a second version of the double concerto (with clarinets, trumpets and timpani).

There is one more complete ‘period’ set in the hi-res catalogue: Mozart: Complete Piano Concertos - Han/Freeman/Kocsis/Ranki/Schiff/Ferencsik/Belder, about which many expressed unhappiness with the (sound) quality. Therefore not a prime recommendation. A further set as per individual volume is Mozart: Piano Concertos Vol. 3 - Christian Zacharias and following. Both sound and musical quality of this modern version on a concert grand is widely lauded, but it is not as complete as BIS’, and there is some confusion as to the original recording format of the first two volumes, later reissued on SACD. It would seem, therefore, that BIS has a clear advantage, especially for all those who believe in ‘period’ Mozart.

A question that will nonetheless arise: shall I buy this one or should I better wait till the boxed set will be released, possibly at an attractive price? Difficult to advise, but personally I would prefer a pick and choose policy. Not all volumes are of equal standard and can one be sure that it will happen and if so, when?

If pick & choose appeals to you, than I can assure you that this one is, in my view, an essential buy on two counts. First of all the playing is excellent. No excessive clickety clic from the piano, brilliant finger work from Brautigam, refined orchestral support by Willens and, as the cherry on the cake, a clear and well balanced recording. All together these forces have done it once more. But the other reason, and probably more to the point from a musical perspective, is that these four concerti play a crucial role in the development of Mozart’s compositional skills in this genre.

They were not, as thought for a long time (like for instance by Herr Köchel, who included them as KV 37, 39, 40 and 41 in his catalogue) a proof of “the young composers brilliance”. Recent research (early 20th century), for which two French musicologist are to be credited, proved that they are transcriptions or rather arrangements of sonatas composed by others (with a possible exception of the second movement, Andante, in the first concerto) carried out with encouragement or, as some have it, under close supervision by Mozart’s father. Details are to be found in the liner notes from John Irving, a Mozart scholar ‘par excellence’.

In my opinion this 'discovery' does not make them less valuable. On the contrary. The way young Mozart, with or without his father’s help, has handled the material, already held the promise of greatness, which soon after expressed itself so magnificently in his triple concerto (‘Lodron’, No. 7). No real Mozart lover should be without this disk. No cycle is complete without these four.

Blangy-le-Château,
Normandy, France

Copyright © 2016 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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Comment by William Hecht - November 15, 2016 (1 of 1)

There's certainly no need to regurgitate Adrian's excellent review, but it does bear saying that while obviously this isn't major Mozart it's still thoroughly enjoyable and a fun conclusion to this excellent set.