Mozart: Concertos for 2 and 3 Pianos - Brautigam, Lubimov, Huss

Mozart: Concertos for 2 and 3 Pianos - Brautigam, Lubimov, Huss


Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid


Mozart: Concerto in E flat major for two pianos K.365, Concerto in F major for three pianos K.242 "Lodron Concerto", Concerto in E flat major for two pianos K.365 (version with clarinets, trumpets & timpani)

Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
Alexai Lubimov (fortepiano)
Haydn Sinfonietta Wien
Manfred Huss (conductor, fortepiano)

There is only a limited number of works for two or more solo instruments with orchestra. One reason may be that the concerto genre in the 19th century became the stomping ground of the great virtuosi of the day, and the works themselves vehicles for the great and unique talent of one, special performer – not two, or three. Mozart, however, was evidently attracted by the sinfonia concertante genre and created some of the finest examples of it, such as the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola and the Concerto for Flute and Harp, as well as his two concertos for more than one piano.

The ‘Lodron Concerto’ for three pianos was composed in 1776 for Countess Lodron and her daughters. It is Mozart’s third piano concerto and the young man’s irrepressible sense of fun is obvious: in his liner notes conductor and pianist Manfred Huss calls the concerto ‘a true musical joke, in which the musical line is divided between the three players quite arbitrarily; one piano continues what another has started and the third will conclude. The listener hardly notices the humour, however, as the music sounds quite “normal”, and only the pianists know (and the score shows) what Mozart is up to.’ When the composer three years later returns to the task of writing for more than one piano, the result is quite different.

The Concerto in E flat major KV 365, composed for Mozart himself and his sister Nannerl, is according to Huss ‘in many respects Mozart’s first ‘big’ piano concerto. It is the first in which we find the very characteristic intertwining of the woodwind and the piano part, accomplished very effectively and virtuosically.’ Mozart seems to have been fond of the work, so fond that for a later performance he added clarinets, trumpets and timpani to the orchestra.

Both versions of the score are found on the present recording, played by Alexei Lubimov and Ronald Brautigam, two of today’s finest performers on the fortepiano. The two versions frame the triple concerto, in which Lubimov and Brautigam are joined by Manfred Huss, artistic director of the eminent Haydn Sinfonietta Wien, who here make their first appearance on BIS.

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PCM recording
Reviews (1)

Review by John Miller - November 3, 2007

This disc is almost self-recommending. Three of the best forte piano specialists, a spirited period instrument orchestra, and the stars of the show, three superb modern copies of pianos from Mozart's day by Walther and Schantz. And of course, Mozart himself.

Some listeners shy away from these period instruments, feeling them to be creaky, clattery and twangy ancestors of today's glorious Steinway pianos. The best way to approach these wooden-framed pianos is to view them as instruments in their own right, and see the big iron-framed modern instruments as a different species. The forte pianos had great virtues for Mozart, Beethoven and other Classical composers. Their actions allowed expressive changes in touch and volume impossible on the harpsichord. They offered very well articulated passage work, and the distinctly different tone colours of their bass, mid and upper ranges were highly prized. Although their range was limited to fewer octaves, chords and rapid passages could be used in the bass register without sounding blurred and muddy as on modern pianos. Incidentally, following period practice, the pianists join the orchestra in the tuttis, playing the role of continuo - surprisingly rarely done on many period concerto recordings. This was a practise followed even beyond Beethoven, who expected it in his own concertos. One advantage of this was that soloists were able to warm up and play themselves in; the forte piano sound also enriched that of the orchestra.

The instrumental virtues of these reconstructed pianos are superbly demonstrated on this BIS recording. After the tutti of K.V 365 has subsided, listen to Lubimov's Walter instrument enter, light-toned and silvery. He is followed by Brautigam on a different Walter copy, with a smoother, richer treble sound and a stronger bass. All three pianos have distinctive personalities. The players clearly enjoyed the opportunity to play together immensely, and their display of sheer musicianship, love of the instruments and joy in performing Mozart positively embraces the listener. This is not the mythic 'Dresden China' Mozart, but the muscular, headstrong and confident young Mozart of the Salzburg Period, boiling with ideas and ready to play tricks at every opportunity. The Haydn Sinfonietta Wien are more than willing participants in this exuberant approach. Their impeccable ensemble provides rhythmic fire and precision or sweetness and tenderness as required.

Characterful woodwind solos engage in conversations with the pianists, especially in the Andantes, where fantasy reigns and the pianists spontaneously decorate their melodic lines. The Rondos would bring the house down at a concert, with wickedly skipping rhythms and throw-away lines which positively wink at the audience. In the Three Piano Concerto, Lubimov, Huss and Brautigam show off their own virtuosic talents with glittering roulades, vying with one another exactly as Mozart and his own fellow soloists must have done, and this exciting but friendly competition in sheer musicianship is a joy to hear.

Sonics, mastered at quite a high level, are typical of the BIS house style, capturing the Austrian church atmosphere, but immediate, vibrant and full of detail. There is a fine bass line from the lower strings. The pianos are placed in front of the orchestra as usual, and in the three-piano concerto, where Mozart starts a melodic line or scale with one piano, he hands the remainder successively to the others. This gives the fascinating impression of having a giant piano keyboard between your speakers, where musical lines often flow from one side to the other!

Strictly, there are only two concertos on this disc, as the E flat for two pianos is repeated on tracks 7-9, but in a version arranged for Vienna, in which Mozart considerably enlarged the orchestra. These additions rather change the character of the piece to a grander one, and it almost sounds like a new work.

With the usual superb BIS presentation, including a good essay on Mozart's love affair with the forte piano and notes on the thre concertos, I would highly recommend this issue.

Copyright © 2007 John Miller and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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