Two by Mozart, Two Arranged by Mozart, All Well-Played
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 10/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD appears to be part of a continuing series - it is marked Volume II - of performances of Mozart's piano concertos featuring varying artists and orchestras in a number of lovely European sites. This one, from early 1990s performances, features two early arrangements by Mozart of pieces by earlier composers - his so-called Concertos Nos. 1 and 4, played by Heidrun Holtmann, with the orchestra of Italian Language Radio and Television of Switzerland, under Marc Andreae. The concerti themselves are fairly negligible but amazing for having been arranged (from works by H. F. Raupach [1728-1778] and Leontzi Honauer [1737-?1790]) when Mozart was only eleven. The performances, filmed in the Teatro Scientifico del Bibiena, Mantua, are unexceptionable.
The great A Major Piano Concerto, K. 488, is played by the very young-appearing Hungarian virtuoso Zoltán Kocsis with the Virtuosi di Praga under Jirí Behlohlávek in the Rittersaal of the Palais Waldstein, Prague. Kocsis is a marvelous Mozartean. I recall a terrific CD performance of the Three Piano Concerto, K. 242, with fellow Hungarians András Schiff and Deszo Ránki as well as the Two Piano Concerto (with Ránki), with the Hungarian State Symphony under the esteemed Janos Ferencsik. The first two movements of the A Major Concerto are simply ravishing. But then the tempo of the third movement is so fast that the poor principal bassoonist, with his recurring sixteenth note figures, is more or less swamped. It really is just a hair too fast, exciting though it be.
All is restored with a simply stunning performance by André Previn playing and conducting the 23rd Concerto in C Minor. He is given exquisite support by the Royal Philharmonic (London). That loveliest of all Mozartean slow movements, the only work he ever wrote in F sharp minor, is meltingly beautiful. The performance is filmed at the gorgeous Grosse Galerie of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. Previn plays his own quite wonderful and style-congruent cadenzas in movements I and III.
The reason for buying this DVD, I suspect, is for the visual as well as the musical values. All three recording venues are lovely, the sound is fine in all three performances, although slightly distant in the A Major Concerto.
I understand that the next release in this series will feature Concerto No. 6 with Christian Zacharias (a marvelous pianist just now finally coming into his own with the larger music-loving public), No. 19 with the great Romanian pianist Radu Lupu, and No. 20 (the D Minor) with a little-known but excellent Czech pianist, Ivan Klánský. The conductors listed are Gianluigi Gelmetti, David Zinman, and Behlohlávek.
In defense of Previn
R. Evans | Montgomery AL | 05/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Concerning the performances themselves, I concur with the always reliable J. Scott Morrison. My main purpose here is to defend Previn from the comments of another reviewer, who implies that the orchestra members show disrespect to Previn in their facial expressions. On the contrary, they seem pleased with his performance (the concert master at one point bobs his head approvingly as Previn plays a cadenza), and at the end of the performance some members of the orchestra can be seen applauding Previn as soloist. During the performance, Previn often smiles at the orchestra, and there is nothing to indicate that the orchestra is dissatisfied with him, either as conductor or as soloist. The whole group seem pleased with their performance at the end, although Previn is typically modest in acknowledging the applause of the audience. In short, I recommend this recording, which is, like the others in this series, both musically and visually satisfying."
Almost great !
John L. Miller | Sterling, Virginia United States | 05/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is Volume 2 of a 4 volume set and it is very good. Heidrun Holtmann's performance is especially noteworthy, and entertaining. Most people are not acquainted with the First and Fourth Concertos. They contain youthful, cheerful, rhythms and tender, touching Andante movements tinged with darkness. Heidrun Holtmann's artistry presents them in a most admirable light. Her interpretation illuminates the aspects of Mozart's genius already in evidence at the age of eleven. The cd's booklet does not identify the source of the excellent cadenzas, but Ms. Holtmann has informed us that the cadenzas were written by Geza Anda (A noted Great Pianist of the 20th century). Incidentally, Ms. Holtmann is featured on a great new recording of Beethoven's Piano Concertos nos. 3 and 4 (CHAMBER MUSIC VERSION circa 1808. It is arranged for piano and string quintet !! Excellent and available at Amazon.
Zoltan Kocsis is the pianist for the 23rd concerto and it is somewhat of a disappointment. The Adagio of this concerto is noted for its poignancy and introspection, but this is lost when Kocsis plays the second movement too fast; over one minute too fast. ...This is why I did not award 5 stars to this otherwise excellent DVD.
As for the 24th Concerto, a previous reviewer wrote that some of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra musicians were obviously displeased with Previn's performance. To the contrary, it is obvious they enjoyed it!.. The concert master's head movements during the first cadenza was in obvious assent and the musicians were noticeably pleased with Mr. Previn at the end of the performance. I agree with other reviewers; Previn's performance was brilliant."
Very Good, Except Kocsis
JohnL | Alexander, NC United States | 12/11/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, I agree with the other reviewers opinions of the early Mozart Concerti performed by Heidrun Holtman. The very young Mozart, although borrowing from some of his contemporaries, composed four delightful concertos (two of which are included on this release) , numbered K37, 39, 40 and 41 in the Kochel catalogue. Also, I readily support Andre Previn's fine performance of K491, the brooding C Minor masterpiece. This is one of the most richly scored works, particularly for the woodwinds. Mozart includes two clarinets, which add wonderful tone color. No qualms whatsoever about Previn's, nor the orchestra's performance. However, I also am disappointed by Zoltan Kocsis' interpretation of one of Mozart's arguably most beautiful of concertos, K488 in A Major. In my opinion, both the first and second movements are played too fast. For example, Murray Perahia's excellent recording of this work, for which he was given a Rosette in the Penguin Guide, clearly shows the difference. Kocsis briskly dispatches the first movement in just over 10 minutes. Perahia takes 11 minutes, 36 seconds. Also, Kocsis plays the 2nd movement as if it were marked "Andante", whereas Mozart clearly marked it "Adagio", a point he specifically made to his father Leopold. Kocsis rushes through this movement in record time: 6 mins, 6 secs. Perahia takes a full 7 mins, 25 secs. Then, remarkably, Kocsis plays the last movement much slower than most others I have heard. Perhaps he was tired after the first two. Overall his interpretation of this awesome concerto is off. The subtle beauties are heard especially in the simply marvelous woodwind section, which can be enjoyed much better at a slower pace, as mentioned, in the first two-thirds of this concerto. Again, Mozart employs two clarinets among the mix, which add some remarkable beauty. Too bad he only used clarinets in just three of the 27 Piano Concertos (22, 23, 24). Of course, the availability of this fairly new instrument I am sure was a factor. So, if you are like me, and doubtless many other Mozart fans, Mozart's Piano Concerti are not to be rushed through. These are his most personal works, and their wonderful qualities can be heard best at their proper pace. I give this 4 stars specifically because of the aforementioned A Major presentation. Otherwise I would have given it a 5."