Brendel plays MOZART in Vienna = Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K. 271 “Jeunehomme”; Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat Major, K. 449; Piano Sonata No. 8 in A Minor, K. 310 – Alfred Brendel, piano/ I Solisti di Zagreb/Antonio Janigro
Alto ALC 1047, 72:13 [Distrib. by Koch] ****:
Alfred Brendel (b. 1931) appears with the I Solisti di Zagreb from Vienna at the Palais Schoenburg, 1966 (concertos) and 1968 (sonata), the concertos having been issued prior by Vanguard Records (as SVC-116) and reissued as a CD in 1999. In this Alto re-mastering, engineer Paul Arden-Taylor does an exemplary job in capturing Brendel’s bright, clarion phrasing for the 1777 Jeunehomme Concerto, in which piano, oboes, and French horns enjoy several plangent moments. The brisk, grand scale of the writing elicited from scholar Alfred Einstein the epithet “Mozart’s Eroica” to characterize the often audacious energy of the writing. The decorative filigree belongs to Mozart himself and provides a fine notion of his keyboard bravura. Antonio Janigro (1918-1989) makes a sensitive yet virile accompanist, and his long, sinewy arch in the C Minor Andantino rings with a grueling pathos. The keyboard part has Brendel assuming several personae, as a vocalist in high registers, as an obbligato for the woodwinds, and as a bass instrument. The irreverent Rondo interrupts the formal proceedings with a menuet, marked Cantabile, and four variations in galant style. A hearty assertiveness permeates this dazzling movement, the French horns and strings especially pert and bustling.
Brendel claims that he “solved” the problem of Mozart performance practice while attending Edwin Fischer’s master class, so the 1778 A Minor Sonata from the Fischer classes communicates a decided poignancy, the music having been conceived in the wake of the death of the composer’s mother. The specific indication (in the Urtext) that the thumb should ring out repeated notes marks the tenacity of agony in these figures, many of which have a pungently contrapuntal harmonization. Nothing effeminate in the first movement, a demon relentless in pursuit of its own chromatic byways. The Andante cantabile points a clear path to Beethoven’s own expressivity. Quick turns, staccati, double-note harmony, upward runs, and stately ariosi mark this chiseled movement, a fond even agonized farewell to the guiding emotional anchor in Mozart’s life. The Presto bites its lip in repressed passion even through the apparent glitter of the top line, the harmonic motion particularly audacious. The rainy-day-tears effect certainly was not lost on a kindred spirit, Brahms.
The E-flat Concerto (1792) has had its attractions for pianists as diverse of Myra Hess, Rudolf Serkin, and Alfred Brendel. Classical compression of form seems to be the rule here, especially in the brief, dazzling parade of affects in triple time that pass by in the opening Allegro vivace, the keyboard allotted brilliant runs in varying colors. The harmonic turns more than once hint at C.P.E. Bach’s “emotional” influence, though the legato moments are pure Mozart. Occasionally, Brendel unleashes his idiosyncratic jeu perle, crystalline and limpid. Janigro’s delivery of the Andantino, beginning sotto voce in the strings, gently announces a melody that subdivides, so that Brendel provides the responsorial, the two halves merging according to Mozart’s laws of magic. Each subsequent repeat reveals a new degree of subtle nuance that certifies the musicianship of each of the principals. Rather a militant affect for the Rondo, rife with instrumental bravura and tinted by hunting horns. Brendel weaves a non-legato spell around the strings’ ever-modulating tune, the variation principle busily, wittily at work. A brief cadenza leads to a coda in triple time, more Homeric laughter whose light patter might well point to Cosi fan tutte.