Salzburger Hofmusik

Mozart: Concertos for 3 and 2 Pianos; Sonata for 2 Pianos

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Historical-instrument performances of Mozart's Concerto for two pianos and orchestra in E flat major, K. 365, and Concerto for three pianos and orchestra, K. 242, are rarer than those for the single-piano concertos, probably because the logistics of bringing together multiple fortepianos are more challenging. This elegant release from Germany's Profil label, under the leadership of Austrian conductor and fortepianist Wolfgang Brunner, shows some of the possibilities that have been missed. What stands out immediately in comparison with a recording on modern pianos is that the instruments sound different from one another. Two of the pianos are copies of instruments from the workshop of Anton Walter, and the third, used by Leonore von Stauss in the two-piano concerto, is from the lesser-known Viennese builder J.J. Könnicke. The antiphonal passages in both concertos and in the virtuoso Sonata for two pianos in D major, K. 448, take on an entirely new level of variety and interest as a result. The three-piano concerto, written for a trio of female pianists in Augsburg in 1777, seems pretty thin when played on modern grands but reveals various puckish details here. One might argue that this was a harpsichord work, but Augsburg was the original location of the workshop of the inventor of the Viennese style of fortepiano, Johann Andreas Stein, and Mozart's letter of 1777 complaining about the action of certain fortepianos suggests that despite his reservations he had the sound of the instrument in his head. The Concerto for two pianos and orchestra benefits from the modest dimensions of the performance; the open chord at the beginning does not seem to define so large a space, and the solo passages again emerge in considerable detail and color. Recorded in a pair of sonically dry spaces that pick up plenty of detail from the instruments, this album makes a distinctive place to start with Mozart on the fortepiano.

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