W.A. Mozart: Piano Concertos chamber versions
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The brilliant American pianist, Anne-Marie McDermott is joined by the Calder Quartet in rarely heard recordings of the chamber versions of three Mozart concertos. Writing to his father in Salzburg on 28 December 1782, Mozart explained that These concertos are a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural without being vapid. There are passages here and there from which the connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why. On 15 January Mozart solicited subscriptions in the Wiener Zeitung for three concertos (Nos. 11-13), describing them as being with with optional wind parts, to allow performance with the accompaniment of only a string quartet. And so they are heard here. Anne-Marie McDermott's recordings on Bridge include: Chopin Recital: BRIDGE 9359; Prokofiev: Sonatas (complete), BRIDGE 9298A/C; Gershwin: Music for Piano and Orchestra (complete), BRIDGE 9252.
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This is a little gem of an album. There is a lovely "chamber-music-ish" feel to album that helps me hear this music anew.
I'm not quite sure what instrument McDermott is playing here, but it certainly sounds like a fortepiano of some variety. This --as well as the fact the concertos included are some of the smaller, more "intimate" of the concertos-- all add to the overall tone of the album.
Finally, I'll just add that I find it interesting how different these works sound from the piano quartets/quintets. That is, you might think that, given the similar instrumentation, that these might "feel" similar to the other works. But that's not really the case here. (All of which, I suppose, speaks to the genius of Mozart.)
The ensemble parts were composed in such a way that wind instruments were optional, and the string parts could be reduced to a simple string quartet if necessary. Thus, however much money was raised, the ensemble parts would be covered. Unfortunately, the subscription was unsuccessful. The works were eventually published, but only the full orchestral versions.
Hearing these three concertos in chamber form is something of a revelation. I didn't miss the orchestra at all. The pieces work very well with just a string quartet (or in the case of Piano Concerto No. 14, K.449 string quartet and bass) supporting the piano. It's a very clean, clear sound, and one that's perfectly, well, Mozartian.
Anne-Marie McDermott plays with taste and delicacy, capturing just the right emotion. Overly dramatic or aggressive playing could easily make the piano overpower the string quartet. And that's something that never happens on this recording. The Calder Quartet and McDermott are in full agreement, mutually working towards the same end.
These are delightful performances that I'll return to again and again. These chamber versions of the concertos are Mozart at his sunniest. Highly recommended, especially if you're only familiar with the full orchestral versions of these works.