MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 24 in c, K 491; Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, K 503 – Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano/ Die Kölner Akademie/ Michael Alexander Willens – BIS multichannel SACD 1894, 55:29 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Since the C-minor concerto was possibly intended as a series of three concertos using clarinets, and since the character of these two siblings seems so different (clarinets versus oboes for instance, dramatically changing the tonal spectrum), it might be incongruous to include them on one disc. But it actually sheds light on Mozart’s creative processes. The K 491, easily the most vocal and operatic of all Mozart’s concertos, is a brooding and darkly warm account of some oddly disjointed but elegantly lyrical music, one of the most dramatic pieces in all of the composer’s output. Matching it with the K 503, Beethovenian to the core and almost rigorously utilitarian and utopian in nature, sacrificing the idea of soloist to the corporate whole, makes for a tremendously stimulating almost-hour of music.
I hope that this signals a whole new series. Not since John Eliot Gardiner’s outing with Malcolm Bilson on their complete Arkiv set years ago have I heard such a spirited period instrument account of these pieces. Indeed, Bilson was miles beyond the period status of his time, turning in readings of real passion and authority that almost sublimated the period instruments into a secondary concern for maybe the first time in the movement’s history. With Die Kölner Akademie there is even less concern for symbolic gestures of who, what, when, and why, and an almost innate concern for musicality only shorn of all other considerations. Ronald Brautigam gives us readings that also transcend the medium, making expressive gestures that mark his account with the very best, ancient instruments or not, and his piano (a McNulty 1992 copy after Anton Walter of 1795) for once demonstrates that properly played and sounding instruments of Mozart’s time maybe didn’t sound as terrible as so many other recordings seem to suggest.
Bis has given all performers excellent surround sound that is wide, deep, and comforting to the ear. A most definite recommendation.
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