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Mozart: Piano Concertos 11-13 - Gislinge

Mozart: Piano Concertos 11-13 - Gislinge

Alba Records  ABCD 418

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Mozart: Piano Concertos 11-13 (cadenzas by Bent Sørensen)

Katrine Gislinge (piano)
Stenhammer Quartet

 

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Review by John Miller - June 11, 2018

At 17, Mozart was still engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court, but he grew restless and travelled in search of a better position. He visited the Austrian capital Vienna in 1781, but the Salzburg Court discovered this and he was dismissed from his Salzburg position in 1781. He stayed on, settled in Vienna and immediately began to transfer various parts of his existing sets of successful music to provide a new base.

One of Mozart’s enterprises was to extend his set of popular piano concertos produced in Salzburg. These were regarded by his patrons not as “classics” but “popular music”, and this is the aspect he used in Vienna, advertising three new piano concertos to be performed at his Lenten concerts of 1783. These concerts were directed not at the usual Vienna aristocrats inviting Mozart and guests in for a single performance in a palace, but his subscription list gave tickets on three consecutive Wednesdays in March in March 1783, in the casino by his friend Johann von Trattner.

K. 414 (A major) was the first of Mozart’s great series of Viennese piano concertos, followed by K. 413 (F major) and K. 415 (C major). Mozart wrote a letter to his father in 1782 describing how exhausting his son’s new busy life was. “There are two concertos wanting to make up the series of subscription concertos. These concertos are a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are also passages here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less discriminating cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why. I am distributing tickets for six ducats in cash.”

Mozart’s each of the first three Viennese piano concert scores consisted of a variable orchestra:
K. 414 with piano, strings, 2 oboes, 2 horns
K. 413 with piano, strings, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 horns
K. 415 with piano, strings, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets and timpani.
These three concertos were written in such a way that there could be two types of scores; the full orchestra as shown above and one with reduced accompaniment of only a string quartet together with a piano. Quite a challenge for Mozart’s score-writing! The Alba SACD booklet doesn’t say anything about this, as the booklet text is mostly an essay by Brent Sørensen, discussing his new cadenzas. The only statement I could find is on the back of the Jewel Case, at the bottom where in very small white font is written “This recording presents three of Mozart’s piano concertos in his own version and string quartet.” As if it were a last thought!

Katrine Gislinge is a young Danish pianist who has made herself one of the most significant pianists in Scandinavia. The meld (on modern instruments) between Gislinge and equally well-known Stenhammar Quartet makes for beautifully moulded playing of Mozart’s three Viennese Piano Concerts. She shows great virtuosity in Mozart’s first movements with their infectious energy, caressing in the slow movements with sotto voce and sadness, but cheers us up with the dance-like third movements (two Rondos and a Minuet).

An important of this SACD is the set of 6 cadenzas by Brent Sørensen, commissioned by Gislinge. These are “an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a ’free’ rhythmic style”. Sørensen has discussed in the booklet about his method and philosophy. In the end, he tells us that “the method was simple and it arrived at its own volition”. Gislinge certainly plays with buoyant lightness. My impression of the cadenzas is a base of Mozart sound, added with Beethoven and early Romantics and a few small dissonances. There are also traces of a quintet “Rosenbad” that Sørensen composed for Gislinge and the Stenhammar Quartet; he listened to this while working on the cadenzas.

Recorded by Sveriges Radio, Studio 3, a studio which goes well for the recording of chamber music and other music, was produced engineered and edited by Thore Brinkmann. With 5.0, the Studio gives a light reverb but amazing accuracy of location for each of the musicians “on the stage”.

There is another fine SACD (Challenge Classics CC 72752), which presents the well-known La Petite Bande using instruments of Mozart’s time. Further, the Band’s Sigiswald Kuijken (who brought together in 1972) found a number of reasons why the ‘cello of La Petite Bande should be replaced by a double bass. Together with the forte-piano the instruments have individual attractive acoustics, made even richer sonically by the rich deep sound of a double bass (5.1 especially).

Here is a double set of Mozart’s Vienna Piano Concertos K. 413, K. 414 & K.415, both with very high playing and recording, one with modern piano and Quartet and 6 new cadenzas, the other with forte-piano and classical quartet with its cello replaced by a double-bass. Pick your SACD. Or both.

Copyright © 2018 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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Comment by hiredfox - July 18, 2018 (1 of 2)

These performances have a little bit of liveliness and fun about them, Gislinge has a certain finesse about her playing which captivated this listener. What I did not like was the steely rasp of the four string instruments including surprisingly Violincello but regrettably this is what happens when one elects to record in low rate PCM. Stage positions are precise and stable horizontally but there is little depth to it.

Alba do not declare the format used although the inscription 'DSD' feature prominently on the rear cover. It is certainly not that; my hunch is that it might be 48khz /24 bit.

Attractive performances indeed but for many SACD collectors that may not be enough. I am neutral on recommendation and noted that John was somewhat evasive in his review.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - July 23, 2018 (2 of 2)

I haven’t heard this one, but some (and I) prefer a version with the cello replaced by a contra bass (Mozart: Piano Concertos 11, 12 & 13 - Kuijken / Kuijken / Kuijken) or with an added contra bass doubling the cello part (Mozart: Piano Concertos 11 & 12 - Fialkowska), giving the sound more depth and more warmth.