Wednesday, 25 January 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, January 2017)

F.X.MOZART Piano Concertos Nos.1 & 2
CLEMENTI Piano Concerto
Sinfonieorchester St Gallen
Hyperion 68126 / ****

Franz Xaver Mozart (1791-1844) was the second son of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was just four months old when his father died. Interestingly, he was a student of Antonio Salieri (Mozart senior's supposed rival) and Johann Hummel, himself a student and boarder who lived in the same household. F.X.Mozart's two piano concertos are chips from the old block, continuing in his father's classical style of piano and orchestral writing without further developing the genre.

Piano Concerto No.1 in C major (1809) recaps Amadeus' martial air of the C major concertos (Nos.21 and 25) and syncopated tension in the opening tutti of the D minor concerto (No.20). By the time Piano Concerto No.2 in E flat major (1818) came about, Beethoven's more vigorous and highly expressive concertos had already turned the tide of music, ushering in the age of Romanticism.

The Italian Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) was a contemporary and rival of the father, upon who no little scorn and sarcasm was poured. Even his only Piano Concerto in C major (1896) sounds modern by comparison and may be passed off as proto-Beethoven. He, rather than Franz Xaver, was perhaps the true link between the masters Mozart and Beethoven. 

Trust the ever-enterprising British pianist-conductor Howard Shelley to breathe urgency and vitality into these little-known works, which are pleasant and worth listening if not life-changing. 

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