Classical Reissue Reviews

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major – Lars Vogt, p./ Frankfurt Radio Sym. Orch./ Paavo Jarvi – Cavi-Music

Thoroughly refreshed thoughts from Vogt and Jarvi on two of Mozart’s late piano concertos add a touch of elegant heroism and refined intimacy to these familiar works.

Published on December 24, 2013

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major – Lars Vogt, p./ Frankfurt Radio Sym. Orch./ Paavo Jarvi – Cavi-Music

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595 – Lars Vogt, piano/ Frankfurt Radio Sym. Orch./ Paavo Jarvi – Cavi-Music 8553257, 57:52 [Distr. by Allegro] (9/13/13) **** :

Originally recorded in 2007 (K. 595) and 2008 (K. 467), these two Mozart concerto masterpieces convey what pianist Lars Vogt (b. 1970) calls “an incredible soulfulness. . .Each one is a stroke of genius, going straight to the heart.” The comparatively luxurious scoring of the 1785 C Major Concerto – featuring trumpets and tympani – contrasts with the more sober 1791 B-flat Major Concerto, tinged as it is, without those trumpets and drums, by a spirit of valediction.

The C Major communicates a “cheerful, open-hearted joy” from beginning to last, including its now iconic F Major second movement, made visually immortal by the 1967 film Elvira Madigan, which featured the soulful playing of Geza Anda.  Besides the sheer gusto and fluent, digital panache that Vogt brings to the majestic allegro maestoso first movement, we can feel a palpable urge to the contours of the sonata-form, especially as move from the colorful development back to the recapitulation and Vogt’s own cadenza, rife with passing counterpoints.  The lyrical Andante receives a pulsating, operatic floatation effect, the solo’s moving from high C to a low A. The interplay of Frankfurt woodwinds, strings, horns, and Vogt’s keyboard produces a sterling intimacy and profound serenity, interrupted only for a moment with an excursion into A-flat Major. The unbuttoned buffa of the finale – which occasionally likes to explode all “profound” pretensions – achieves a rollicking, almost breathles ferocity, the very spirit of Mozart’s great admirer Rossini.

The elements of what Vogt calls “crying while laughing” infiltrates the B-flat Major Concerto, a moment in music astonishing in its intimate heroics. Much of this music’s color and affect sympathize with the composer’s G Minor Symphony. The sun often hides behind a minor-key cloud, as when the piano, oboe, and bassoon exchange colors in the development section of the opening Allegro, only for the series of Mannheim scales to assume an air of transcendent spirituality.  The real secret of the work lies in its clarity or sincere expression, a directness whose few embellishments seem to increase the imminent tragedy of life and the frailty of all beauty in the world. Occasionally, we hear an echo of Mozart’s aria from The Abduction from the Seraglio, Osmin’s “O wie will ich triumphieren,” but bereft of all malice.

The heart of the Concerto, its E-flat Major Larghetto, gives to the keyboard few flourishes and long melodic lines, but rather a measured arioso that accentuates virtually every distinct note. If this music reflects our troubled world, in occurs only in the passing G-flat episode, since otherwise this music exists in a childlike sphere detached from all mortal coils. Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein always claimed that it is in this work’s last movement Rondo that Mozart states his farewell to life, and not in the Requiem. Mozart artfully combines song-form and variation in an intricate blend to which Vogt’s passionate keyboard part lends an air of mournful urgency. “Noble simplicity” and “calm grandeur” remain the oft-invoked epithets for this music, almost a sonic realization of the sentiment from Isaiah that “a child shall lead them.” The cadenza of the last movement, chaste yet rife with understated bravura from Vogt, adds a touch of that restrained energy that reminds us how far Mozart’s passions allowed themselves to be bound by the strictures of good form and exquisite taste.

—Gary Lemco

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