Jean-Efflam Bavouzet / Gabor Takács-Nagy / Manchester Camerata

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20, KV 466; Piano Concerto No. 21, KV 467; Overture to Don Giovanni

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Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is one of the more prolific artists on the scene, with major Mozart and Debussy cycles in process, a Beethoven sonata cycle already completed, plus recordings of other music from Haydn to the present day. With this release, the fourth in his Mozart concerto series, he reaches some well-known works. As in previous albums in the series, Bavouzet combines a straightforward sound (he uses a modern Yamaha piano) with the Manchester Camerata, which despite its chamber orchestra name, is not small by the standards of today's Mozart. The recording, in many respects, could have been made by Rudolf Serkin in the 1960s. It has some of the virtues of that particular player, including exceptional sensitivity in the wind passages that carry such excitement of Mozart discovering new textures wherever he went in the concerto form. In other respects, though, Bavouzet is far out of the mainstream, whether on the cutting edge or simply about to fall off the edge remains to be seen. In the Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467, he ornaments the piano line heavily; others have ornamented it, but not quite to this extent. Moreover, he fools with the rhythm of the piano line itself. Sample the Andante and see what you think. In the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, he is more circumspect, using the common cadenzas by Beethoven. In the Piano Concerto No. 21, he plays cadenzas by Peter Serkin, which are unorthodox, but less so than the ones of his own creation that have appeared on other releases in the series. Bavouzet seems to be arguing that the Mozart piano concertos, which certainly had some kind of an improvisatory element, had more than is generally supposed. Your mileage may vary here, but he gets vigorous and well-controlled support from the Manchester Camerata and director Gabor Takács-Nagy.

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