David Greilsammer / L'Orchestre de Chambre de Genève

Mozart In-Between

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Israeli-American conductor and pianist David Greilsammer, pictured in the graphics of this album standing on the edge of a piano as if it were a diving board, has specialized in unusual programming decisions, specifically those relating to Mozart. As the odd title Mozart In-Between suggests, here he will not disappoint those in search of more of the same. His most bizarre move here is to insert a newly commissioned contemporary piece, Swiss composer Denis Schuler's atonal In-between for string quartet, orchestra, and percussion, in between two excerpts from Mozart's incidental music to Thamos, König in Ägypten, K. 345. Greilsammer writes that this work "is intended to serve as a mirror that sheds light on the past," although it is not clear why the interruption of Mozart's music is necessary for this purpose. The Schuler work might seem to be aimed toward the defamiliarization of Mozart's music, but Greilsammer goes on to say that he actually finds in its chiaroscuro effects something analogous to the "violent imaginary storm that occurs in Mozart's heart" in the Mozart pieces performed. Although the C minor central movement of the Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major, K. 271, is one of his more tragic essays, the Mozart works in the main don't fit that description, for which he had the vocabulary of Sturm und Drang available. They're actually rather sunny and brisk. The exception would be the final aria from the very early opera Mitridate, re di Ponto, K. 87, sung here by countertenor Lawrence Zazzo. This is supposed to be part of the in-between concept as well, but rare indeed would have been the 18th century listener who could have fathomed what is going on. There is good news: the individual performances are fine in themselves, and Greilsammer's punchy playing in the Piano Concerto No. 9 represents a genuinely original conception of the work. And, for that matter, the boldness of the entire conception is ultimately all to the good. But this particular effort seems inadequately thought out.

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