The Last Concertos = MOZART: Piano Concerto No 27; Clarinet Concerto – Andreas Staier, fortepiano/ Lorenzo Coppola, clarinet/ Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/ Gottfired von der Goltz, conductor – Harmonia mundi

by | Feb 15, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

The Last Concertos = MOZART: Piano Concerto No 27; Clarinet Concerto – Andreas Staier, fortepiano/ Lorenzo Coppola, clarinet/ Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/ Gottfired von der Goltz, conductor – Harmonia mundi 901980, 59:23 ****:

There are some questions surrounding both of these works as truly the “last concertos” Mozart penned, especially the Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat. For all indications are that this work was conceived at least three years earlier, stylistically a lifetime in one as short as Mozart’s. Yet the rumors persist that there is simply something about this concerto that sets it apart from the other 26, an almost embarrassing peek behind the doors into the composer’s soul where he reveals quietly and without bombast his secret thoughts. Well, one must not forget that even though there were sketches of this work at an earlier date the composer still chose to use this music for what was to be his last piano effort, and there is no doubt that the first movement, and the second as an extension of its thoughts in a more sedate frame of reference are different from the concertos that went before. Mozart offered his concertos usually on a subscription basis, and there seems to be something in each of them designed to “wow” an audience. This is not the case here, and even the finale rondo does not present itself in the same manner as the great C-major work, No. 21, for instance. But ultimately the truth resides only in the music on the page, and for my money it is one of Mozart’s finest efforts in the genre, regardless of date of origin, though it cannot match that claim in terms of popularity. Artists have always loved it, the public less so, and its appearance on concert programs, while not rare, is not exactly prolific.

In this recording, Andreas Staier plays an Anton Walter fortepiano, and it sounds a very good instrument, as fortepianos go. For me this could never replace any of my traditional favorites, like Alfred Brendel with Marriner, simply because of the instrument itself. However, Staier understands the music and its moods very well, has a nice firm but sensitive touch (important in this instrument) and as far as interpretation goes is able to hold his own with the best. One small difference in the reading is that the conductor has decided to tone down the parts marked “solo” by using only a string quartet in certain places. This is explained in the notes according to a theory that may or may not have the stamp of truth. You will notice it, but the end result is still a fine one.

There were also parts of the clarinet concerto that were written earlier, but here we are on more solid ground when we claim that the concerto is not only his last, but his last orchestral work of any kind, and that alone makes it noteworthy. In my mind it is easily Mozart’s best concerto in any form, and the splendid interaction between clarinet and orchestra finds its fullest perfection. What makes this reading interesting, aside from Lorenzo Coppola’s splendid playing, is the choice of a clarinet instead of a basset horn, something most period recordings (and a lot of modern instrument recordings as well) absolutely insist on. Yet, in a strange twist, since the absence of a genuine autograph of the original written for the basset horn makes a reconstruction merely guesswork, a clarinet part not by Mozart is used, although the performers have compared it with the similar work done in 1785, a fragment of the autograph of another basset piece almost identical to the concerto, K 584b. But this is academic—the performance is wonderful, holding its own against many of the very best, yet probably not topping those by Meyer, Marcellus, and others.

The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra plays with a lot of energy and sense of great fun, HM giving them lots of fine sound to frolic in. This is a most worthy release, the end of a trilogy devoted to Mozart’s wind works with orchestra.

— Steven Ritter

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