Viviana Sofronitsky

Mozart: Piano Concertos, Vol. 5

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Part of a complete series of Mozart keyboard concertos recorded by Russian-Polish fortepianist Viviana Sofronitski and the Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense, a group of musicians specializing in early music from the Warsaw Chamber Opera Orchestra, these performances make a few unorthodox choices but generally show the care and detail evident in other volumes in this series from Poland, a country not much known for its historical performance scene. The most debatable choice is the use of Sofronitski's big Walter-style fortepiano, some 15 or 20 years younger than the work, in the teenaged Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 5 in D major, K. 175. This concerto was almost surely intended for a harpsichord, for the fortepiano was likely unknown in Salzburg when Mozart composed the work in 1773. However, as Sofronitski points out in her useful annotation, that piece of evidence isn't conclusive. Mozart was already a touring virtuoso by that time, and he may well have had the sound of the new instrument in his head even if he didn't have one at hand. This line of reasoning is strengthened by the fact that Mozart kept this youthful work in his performing repertory for a decade or more. The concerto is usually executed with a light touch, but here, in the hands of Sofronitski, conductor Tadeusz Karolak, and the moderately large orchestra, it emerges as a much weightier piece that points the way to the mature Mozart. This is especially true in the middle movement, where Sofronitski plays off against Mozart's richly pastoral horns. The centerpiece of the album, the Concerto for two pianos and orchestra in E flat major, K. 365 (featuring Linda Nicholson on a second Walter fortepiano), is beautifully done, with close coordination between pianists and conductor in a fluid, dynamic interpretation of the bravura opening movement. The big approach works perhaps least well in the rather frilly Concerto for three pianos and orchestra in F major, K. 242, which seems intended for a lighter, more domestic touch than it is given by Sofronitski, Nicholson, and Mario Aschauer. On balance, though, the disc maintains the high standards of this unusual Polish series.

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