Janina Fialkowska / Chamber Players of Canada

Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 11 & 12

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There is no question that Mozart's keyboard concertos could be and were played by chamber string groups in their own time. Mozart himself made arrangements of his concertos for chamber combinations and clearly allowed for the possibility that the works would be played this way. However, he offered the revealing explanation that if he didn't rush out his own arrangements, someone else would beat him to it. Those curious about Mozart's sound world will find the well-played performances here of value, but for the average listener they'll sound a bit thin. The keyboard concertos were public works by which the newly footloose Mozart tried to make the biggest impression he could upon the Viennese public, and damping down the contrast between solo and tutti, as inevitably happens when the piano has only a string quintet to play off against, loses some of the excitement the musical lines were written to create. (The solo parts for Mozart's piano concertos sound quite different from those of his piano quartets, and with good reason.) And of course Mozart's glorious wind writing is gone for good. The performers, aware of the sparse quality of the orchestral passages, fill out the sound of the quartet Mozart would have used with a contrabass doubling the bottom line, but the piano still sounds constrained. (A fortepiano works much better in these arrangements than does the modern grand used here.) The players, young Canadian up-and-comers all, have a feel for Mozartian melody, and Atma's Super Audio sound is superbly clear. Most listeners, however, will find that these arrangments were made for people who had heard Mozart play and wanted to reproduce what they heard as best they could at home, without benefit of modern sound equipment. They might have found the idea of using the arrangements when the real thing was available slightly bizarre.

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