Thursday, 8 May 2014

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, May 2014)

MOZART Piano Concertos Nos.19 &23
Bavarian Radio Chamber Orchestra
Deutsche Grammophon 477 9849 / ****1/2

Mozart’s piano concertos can be said to be an ultimate form of chamber music, one in which the virtuosic solo keyboard part is so well integrated with the orchestra that the two become inseparable. This is the spirit in which French pianist Hélène Grimaud takes to two of Mozart’s happiest creations in this genre. The F major concerto (No.19) is ebullient as the A major concerto (No.23) is lyrical, with Grimaud’s crisply articulated playing and singing tone the common pleasure. Her understated virtuosity serves the music, even if the choice of Busoni’s cadenza for No.23 (also used by Horowitz) is an unexpected gambit.  

Inserted between the concertos is the concert aria Chio Mi Scordi Di Te? (I Forget You?), comprising a recitative and rondo from a revision of the opera Idomeneo, with soprano Mojca Erdmann. The piano obbligato part comes like a surprise, but acts as an extra voice that comments on the sentiments expressed by the singer. The accompanying DVD includes a video of the lilting Adagio from Piano Concerto No.23 with photographic stills of trees by Mat Hennek, a pleasant but not essential part of a well-conceived and smartly packaged album.

Charivari Agréable / KAH-MING NG
Signum Classics  SIGCD249/ *****

The baroque concerto was popularised by Antonio Vivaldi who composed more than such 500 examples, including The Four Seasons. This recording delights in the lesser lights of an art form that later gave way to the classical concerto exemplified by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Whoever thought that A Favourite Concerto of 1768 for harpsichord by Pietro Paradies (1709-1791), so-named in order to boost its popularity, would be virtually forgotten today? It’s an enjoyable 12 minutes, longer than the other concertos in this collection, including two cornet concertos by Johan Berlin and Pietro Baldassari. The instrument more associated today with marching bands has a mellower and softer sonority than the mighty trumpet.
Johan Hertel’s Trumpet Concerto No.3 (with soloist Simon Desbruslais) is probably the least obscure work here. Johann Pepusch’s Concerto For 4 Violins deserves more listens, as does Anton Reichenauer’s Oboe Concerto, which is comparable with the best of Albinoni’s better known concertos. Reviving the fortunes of these is the Oxford-based period performance group Charivari Agréable (translated as “Pleasant Tumult”), led on harpsichord by Petaling Jaya native Ng Kah-Ming. The spirited and exemplary performances are hard to dislike, which makes one crave for more of the same.  

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