Never too late for the Mozart 250th anniversary, this gorgeous disc captures Mozart in his home town, his authentic element. Recorded April 2006, the piano a resonant Steinway, we have Stefan Vladar’s assuming the mantle of Geza Anda with resounding success. The orchestral response absolutely reinvigorates Mozart’s blazing sforzati, the crystalline runs, and Vladar is not stingy in adding all sorts of mordants and extra grace notes, an emphatic leading tone, whatever it takes to make this music move. A Mozart style neither stuffy nor slack, these performances shake and bake. Even without surround sound as such, the horns and tympani parts of the C Major Concerto interject themselves with startling force. Vladar’s first movement cadenza–his own, I assume, with hints of Busoni–is a real tiger of bustle and sinew. Wonderful. The Camerata strings throb and hum for the Andante, and we can forget Elvira Madigan for a change. Etched phrases, elegant open-work between piano and wind and string choirs. Listen to those long-held notes in the horns and the pizzicati in the strings. To call the Allegro vivace assai feathery or quicksilver is to underestimate the fleetness of the rendition, a spirited romp equal to the Gieseking/Cantelli collaboration half a century ago. Great bassoon part!
The tenor changes drastically in the D Minor Fantasy (c. 1782), a melancholy improvisation of markedly romantic power. Only the last pages convey any joy, and the last ten bars of these are not Mozart’s, but an addendum by August Eberhard Mueller. The D Major Rondo reverts back to Mozart’s extroverted, virtuosic self – pseudo-militant, self-indulgent in his musically magnanimous way. Each of Vladar’s trills wants to outdo the last. Marked Allegretto grazioso, the piece can nevertheless explode, tympani and Mannheim rockets forefront, with ravishing elan. The C Minor Concerto (1786) opens as though the Requiem were nigh. Ferocious harmonies and mournful woodwinds succeed, the flute’s plaint notwithstanding. When the feverish cataclysm subsides, the piano’s voice might be that of Orpheus, trying to quell the maenads. The autumnal colors, the running interplay of piano and plangent string and winds, blend most beguilingly: if it’s a song of impending death, its words are by Francois Villon. Some progressive harmonies in Vladar’s cadenza. Vladar takes the Larghetto as an andante, songfully Masonic an ode to melancholy. Nothing soft or willowy in the final Allegretto, which often wails like an armed banshee. The labyrinthine variants on the main march become quite eerie, almost incandescent with nitre. Oboe and flute try to see some sky, but the dark prevails.
This is Mozart 21st Century style, in full awareness of its musical precedents. Best of the Year entry and any Mozart-lover’s perfect gift to himself.
— Gary Lemco