MOZART: 3 Piano Concerti a Quattro = Slavka Pechokova-Vernerova, p./ Members of Prazak Quartet with Pavel Nejtek, doublebass – Praga Digitals

MOZART: 3 Piano Concerti a Quattro, K413, 414 and 415 = Slavka Pechokova-Vernerova, p./ Members of the Prazak Quartet with Pavel Nejtek, doublebass – Praga Digitals PRD/DSD 250 298, 75:59 [11/12/13] [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Although this is not an SACD release, the sense of space and aural richness that occasionally envelops these new recordings of Mozart’s “Viennese trilogy” in the “a Quattro” arrangements for piano and string quartet with double bass is dimensionally quite striking at times.

While 25-year old Slavka Pechokova-Vernerova makes a good impression throughout, it is the three movements of K. 413 and the slow movement of K. 415 that she rises to the truly Mozartian levels of pure physical beauty a modern piano can bestow when so elegance and luxuriantly played.

Otherwise, the performances of the three concertos, though they were made on the same January 2013 day at the Martinu Concert Hall of the Lichtenstein Palace at the Prague Academy of Music, are subject to the same criticism they usually are, of reducing what Mozart intended to be accompanied by increasingly rich orchestral winds (plus trumpets and drums in K. 415) to something that on record can sound wimpy. (As with Anne McDermott’s recent Bridge CD of the same three concertos with the Calder Quartet, despite McDermott’s unforgettably pearlescent playing.)

The problem lies with the arrangements’ inherent physical and musical imbalances, even though Mozart sanctioned the music’s performance by domestic forces, and even though the Prazak Quartet plays with their customary energy and shine.

—Laurence Vittes

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