Gottlieb Wallisch / Piatti Quartet

Mozart: Piano Concertos 12, 13 & 14

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed all of his piano concertos for piano and orchestra, though he arranged a handful of them for piano and string quartet. As a practical matter, when musicians were scarce, these chamber transcriptions were a lot easier to program than the full orchestral pieces. Furthermore, Mozart stood to gain from their publication, which increased the interest of amateur players. Even so, though the solo piano part was kept the same, the quartet's simplified accompaniment sounds less robust than the original orchestration for strings, winds, and timpani. Despite the genial interpretations of pianist and Mozart authority Gottlieb Wallisch and the Piatti Quartet, who make their recording debut here, this presentation of the Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K. 414, the Piano Concerto No. 13 in C major, K. 415, and the Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K. 449, is a little disappointing, not because of the absence of the full orchestral sound, but more for the fact that this is an audiophile recording that almost seems wasted on these pared-down versions. The hybrid SACD format and the state-of-the-art multichannel recording don't add anything special to the Piatti's sound, and the spaciousness of the SACD actually diminishes it, making the quartet seem more recessed and weaker than it really is. While these are Mozart's authentic arrangements and of special interest to collectors, who might want to give them a fair hearing before dismissing them, all others should stick with the full orchestral versions.

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