MOZART: Great Piano Concertos, Vol. IV

by | Mar 9, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART – Great Piano Concertos, Vol. IV

Program: Piano Concerto in No. 5 in D Major, K. 175; Piano Concerto No. 8 in C Major, K. 246; Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595
Performers: Malcolm Frager, piano/ Orchestra della RAI Svizzera Italiana/ Marc Andreae (K. 175)/ Christian Zacharias, piano/ Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart/ Gianluigi Galmetti (K. 246)/ Deszo Rankl, piano/English Chamber Orchestra/ Jeffrey Tate (K. 453)/ Aleksander Madzar, piano/ Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/ Andre Previn (K. 595)

Studio: EuroArts DVD 2010248 (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 4:3 full screen color
Audio: PCM Stereo, 5.1 Dolby Digital
Length: 120 minutes
Rating: ****

More splendidly-taped Mozart concerts, 1989-1990, released in celebration of the Mozart anniversary. The late Malcolm Frager appears at Teatro Scientifico del Bibiena, Mantua, 19 April 1989 in the D Major Concerto – composed when Mozart was barely 17 and just breaking away from copying J.C. Bach models. Marc Andreae, son of the noted conductor Volkmar, and resembling not a little Guido Cantelli, makes a lean, suave presence, sans and with baton at the podium, leading a debonair Malcolm Frager through the alternately galant and bravura figures. The Andante which wants to be an Adagio luxuriates in silken French horn work. The movement, in its time, far surpassed anything Mozart’s contemporaries had conceived of sensitive beauty. The Allegro finale, with its brilliant moments of learned counterpoint, intimidated its contemporary audiences, who demanded a lighter ending. Its pomp and gilded circumstance finds Frager in pungent, facile form as he canters through every knotty obstacle. Woodwind and crossed-hand dialogue keeps the camera busy. If I recall rightly, Frager and Andreae recorded the concertos by Carl Maria von Weber for Eurodisc, and I’d like to see those collaborations back in any form.

Christian Zacharias plays the so-called Luetzow Concerto at the RokokoTheatre Schwetzingen Palace 17 May 1989, and he and Gelmetti are captured by a crew directed by Janos Darvas.  Zacharias applies a light action to his keyboard, finding a medium between a fortepiano and the modern concert grand. Liquid runs and cloying string and wind figures prove charming in their way, although Mozart was to utilize these materials to grander effect in the concertos K. 415 and K, 503. Rather somber lighting provides a foil to the airy grace of the Allegro aperto, the winds caught in a burnished brown that smacks of Antonioni.  Limpid, fluid articulation of all parts cannot make this concerto anything more than a showpiece for a gifted, aristocratic amateur, but the interplay between pianist and conductor, the rapt response from the audience almost compel us to accept the C Major as a significant opus in the Mozart catalogue.

The entire level of Mozart invention skyrockets exponentially for the G Major Concerto, K. 453, performed by Rankl and Tate at the Grosse Galerie of the Imperial Palace of Schoenbrunn, Vienna, 15 November 1990. The string and woodwind parts, particularly the latter interplay of oboe and bassoon, reach an apex of fluid lucidity which Mozart transfers to his opera The Mariage of Figaro. The camera likewise picks up the level of visual virtuosity, cross-cutting from conductor Tate to shots just behind Rankl’s right elbow and into the orchestral mix. The pace is leisurely, but the textural and vertical beauties of the score unfold in motley filigree. The big key change with flute and oboe soli has Tate grimacing with pleasure. We can hear adumbrations of the D Minor Concerto, K. 466, but Mozart here is interested in refined delicacy of feeling, not so much sturm und drang. Rankl’s own solo interludes are lovely enough to arrest the attention of several of the string players awaiting their own entry. Mozart’s use of false cadences and ritards provides little touches of virtuosic humor.

The Andante, in the stile brise or broken style, proceeds by gentle stops and starts through a host a wonderful modulations, which Rankl plays with dragonfly tonal pressure, his right hand runs taking us through circuitous routes and back to the home key. Conductor Tate, the Glenn Gould of orchestral leaders, contorts his body from his stool to peer back at Rankl, assuring himself that all is well. The second movement cadenza more than once hints at Tchaikovsky’s B-flat Minor Concerto. The Allegretto is one of the luscious theme and variations which sings and rollicks according to the composer’s whim, the woodwinds again extending and commenting upon the audacious undertakings. Flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon each earn their camera moments. At the minor variation, the music assumes a Masonic mystery, and the intricacies of harmony beguile us all. Rocket figures in the strings pomposo; Rankl’s delicate tracery and fine trill catch the camera’s eye. Then, the hunting call to the spirited finale, with its false resolutions, then onward to the flutes and wind choir, whose bassoon ushers us to the real, final, and, magical mix of the last restatement of this ingenious rondo.

Finally, the B-flat Concerto, again from the Imperial Palace at Schoenbrunn, 29 November 1990, with a bespectacled Andre Previn ushering in the youthful Aleksander Madzar.  Chandeliers and dark wood mark the “valedictory” opening of this last of Mozart’s brilliant concertos.  Light touches in the strings and winds, then a sweeping rocket to the melodic utterance from flute and strings to which the piano then responds after the martial cadence. Much histrionic facial movement from Madzar does not spoil the delicate tracery of his piano part, nor his silvery tone. The camera plants itself directly for the profile shot, capturing Madzar and Previn and the middle strings. I could do without Madzar’s twisted, ecstatic visage; I’d rather listen to what his hands yield. Previn’s conducting is the soul of economy, hardly a flick to engage his winds choir and string complement. The upward scale of cascading sound has the camera retreat behind Madzar and to the oboes. The recap has Previn’s left hand ushering in the melodic line.  The working out to the cadenza is sweet and facile, provided I shut my eyes and just listen to our talented soloist. The raptures continue for the Larghetto, so I watch the French horns and strings amid Previn’s soft gestures. When the camera fixates on Madzar’s long tapered fingers, the visuals match the chaste majesty of the music. Big gestures from Prevn after the piano statement of the Rondo theme, with flute and bassoons having the last word.  Musicbox sonority from Madzar to accompany the flute and winds. Nice subito from Previn to bring in the scherzando theme. Everything intensifies to the final cadenza, the marcato playing of the rondo theme against itself. The softest trill to the restatement of the tune, the strings an aura of sound; then the pomp of the concluding pages, the marvelous fluency and maturity of the writing in no way suggesting that the composer had a mere nine months of life left to himself.

–Gary Lemco

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