MOZART Concertos Nos. 6, 8 & 9 – Angela Hewitt with orch. – Hyperion

by | Oct 17, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews

MOZART Concertos = Piano Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major, K. 238; Piano Concerto No. 8 in C Major, K. 246 “Luetzow”; Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K. 271 “Jeunehomme” – Orchestra da Camera di Mantova/ Angela Hewitt, piano and conductor – Hyperion CDA67840, 75:23 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
This happy collation of Mozart piano concertos (rec. 30 November, 1-2 December 2010) traces Mozart’s evolution away from a talented epigoni’s imitating forms created by Johann Christian Bach. Mozart’s style between 1775 and 1777 took some bold leaps in terms of his use of dissonance and his ability to spin out virtuosic fioritura for the klavier of his choice. Mozart marks the first movement of his B-flat Concerto, K. 238 (1776) Allegro aperto, a designation warranting “openness” and decisive gaiety. Except for a plaintive tune in the minor from the oboe, there are few emotional undercurrents present. The writing calls for quick facility and deft lightness, qualities Hewitt bestows in abundance, even providing her own addendum to Mozart’s scanty 12-bar cadenza. A capacity for chiaroscuro infiltrates the Andante movement, as it moves fluently between major and minor, the two flutes adding a bucolic character that triplets in the muted strings intensify. Hewitt’s playing becomes almost “dainty,” and the spare use of string vibrato produces a chaste Mozart indeed. The cadenza in this slow movement provides ample evidence of Hewitt’s natural Mozart affinity. The horns suddenly shine even beyond the oboes in the last movement Rondeau, while the keyboard has its own bravura color in the G Minor middle section. The music assumes a Baroque character with repeated broken octaves in the right hand. The galant tempo resumes, the oboes tinting the color of the dance while the horns add a special luster. This performance “sells” the concerto as few have in my experience.
The so-called Luetzow Concerto (1776) was written for Countess Antonie von Luetzow, the niece of Prince-Archbishop Colleredo, Mozart’s employer in Salzburg.  The Countess must have possessed a fluent right hand, if this concerto evidences, since the opening Allegro aperto calls for march tunes and rolling arpeggios peppered with broken staccato chords and trills.  The cadenza employs aspects of an Alberti bass and the broken chord filigree that here assume a music-box sonority under Hewitt. The expressive Andante has been attacked as “meandering” by some critics, but Hewitt finds its middle section lyrically affecting, a beauty “fragile and very touching.” A civil minuet opens the final Rondeau, but its courtly flavor becomes more inspired and more animate after bar 39. The middle section in A Minor invokes Baroque counterpoint, and then each repetition of the rondo theme gains increased ornamentation and speed, to which Hewitt adds her own instrumental virtuosity.
The E-flat Concerto, K. 271 (1777) represents a quantum leap in concerto composition, the twenty-one-year old Mozart suddenly having found his true dramatic voice. Composed for a certain Madame Jenamy, the concerto invests the keyboard writing and orchestral tissue with remarkable synchronicity of effect. The inner tissue calls for the piano to be accompanied by oboes only, then horns only. Hewitt, of course, must jump in at the second bar to complete the orchestra’s entrance of major themes. The lucid trill becomes almost a signature for the first movement, entering once more after the cadenza. That so many melodies can roll forth with such easy fluency and colors remains a true “miracle of rare device.” Muted first and second violins in canon announce a slow Andantino, almost a contradiction in terms. The dissonances and anguished colors place this music near the Masonic Funeral Music in affect. Long pedal notes make the movement kin to Bach, likely Carl Philipp Emanuel. A sighing descending scale followed by recitative passagework takes its cue from Italian opera. The cadenza commands our attention, Hewitt’s studied figures attempting to find solace in abysmal pain. Two slashing unison chords intensify the descent into the emotional maelstrom.  The final Rondeau (Presto) sprints into a 34-bar theme all sun and light, interrupted by Eingaenge (brief cadenzas) that quite dazzle the ear. The sudden appearance of the minuet with strings assumes uncanny power, given the chaste clarity of the rapid movement on either side of it. Again, this spirited rendition marks Hewitt as a Mozartean of the first rank.
—Gary Lemco