MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 20 and 21 (Andras Ligeti/ Concentus Hungaricus/ Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando) (Naxos: 8.550434)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Concerto No.21 in C Major, K. 467
Piano Concerto No.20 in D Minor, K. 466
The solo concerto had become, during the eighteenth century, animportant vehicle for composer-performers, a form of music that had developed from thework of Johann Sebastian Bach, through his much admired sons Carl Philipp Emanuel andJohann Christian, to provide a happy synthesis of solo and orchestral performance. Mozartwrote his first numbered piano concertos, arrangements derived from other composers, in1767, undertaking further arrangements from Johann Christian Bach a few years later. Hisfirst attempt at writing a concerto, however, had been at the age of four or five,described by a friend of the family as a smudge of notes, although, his father claimed,very correctly composed. In Salzburg as an adolescent Mozart wrote half a dozen pianoconcertos, the last of these for two pianos after his return from Paris. The remainingseventeen piano concertos were written in Vienna, principally for his own use in thesubscription concerts that he organised there during the last decade of his life. Thesecond half of the eighteenth century also brought considerable changes in keyboardinstruments, as the harpsichord was gradually superseded by the fortepiano or pianoforte,with its hammer action, an instrument capable of dynamic nuances impossible on the olderinstrument, while the hammer-action clavichord from which the piano developed had toolittle carrying power for public performance. The instruments Mozart had in Vienna, by thebest contemporary makers, had a lighter touch than the modern piano, with action andleather-padded hammers that made greater delicacy of articulation possible, among otherdifferences. They seem well suited to Mozart's own style of playing, by comparison withwhich the later virtuosity of Beethoven seemed to some contemporaries rough and harsh.
Mozart entered the PianoConcerto in D Minor, K. 466, in his new catalogue of compositions on 10thFebruary, 1785. It received its first performance at the Mehlgrube in Vienna the followingday in a concert at which the composer's father, the Salzburg Vice-Kapellmeister LeopoldMozart, was present.
Leopold Mozart sent his daughter a description of the first ofhis son's Lenten subscription concerts, remarking particularly on the fine new concertothat was performed, a work that the copyist was still writing out when he arrived, so thatthere had been no time to rehearse the final rondo. He found his son busy from morning tonight with pupils, composing and concerts, and felt out of it, with so much activity roundhim. Nevertheless he was immensely gratified by Wolfgang's obvious success. The next dayHaydn came to the apartment in Schulerstrasse and Mozart's second group of quartetsdedicated to the older composer were performed, to Haydn's great admiration.
The D Minor Piano Concerto,the first of Mozart's piano concertos in a minor key, to be followed a year later by the C Minor Concerto, adds a new dimension of highseriousness to the form, a mood apparent in the dramatic orchestral opening, with itsmounting tension as the wind instruments gradually join the strings. The concerto isscored for trumpets and drums, as well as the now usual flute, pairs of oboes, bassoonsand horns, with strings, the violas divided. The soloist enters with a new theme, after anorchestral exposition that has announced the principal material of the movement, and laterextends the second subject in a work in which the recurrent sombre mood of the opening isonly momentarily lightened by reference to brighter tonalities, these too not withoutpoignancy.
The slow movement, under the title Romance, is in the form of arondo, in which the principal theme, announced first by the soloist, re-appears, framingintervening episodes. Its key of B flat major provides a gentle contrast to the firstmovement, with a dramatic return to the minor, G minor, in the second episode. Trumpetsand drums are, according to custom, omitted from the movement, but return for the finalrondo, into which the soloist leads the way, again in the original key of D minor. Atriumphant D major version of an earlier theme interrupts a repetition of the minorprincipal subject, after the cadenza, and brings the concerto to an end. Cadenzas werepresumably improvised by Mozart, and not written out, as they would have been for hispupils or for his sister, and do not survive. Beethoven, who had narrowly been preventedby his mother's final illness from studying with Mozart in Vienna, provided cadenzas forthe first and last movements.
Mozart's Piano Concerto in CMajor, K. 467, was entered in his catalogue of compositions with the date 9thMarch, 1785, a month after his D Minor Concerto. Like its immediate predecessor it isscored for trumpets and drums, as well as flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns, andstrings, with divided violas. It was first performed by the composer at the fifth of hisLenten Mehlgrube concerts on 11th March, the day after a concert in the Burgtheater forwhich he had used his new fortepiano with an added pedal-board, an instrument that hisfather remarks is constantly being taken out of the house for concerts at the Mehlgrube orin the houses of the aristrocracy.
The opening bars of the exposition, played by the strings, areanswered, in military style, by the wind, and there is a second theme of less significancethan a true second subject, which is reserved for the soloist's exposition. The soloistenters at first with an introduction and brief cadenza, leading to a trill, while thestrings again play the first part of the principal theme, answered by the piano, whichthen proceeds to material of its own. An unexpected foretaste of the great G Minor Symphony from the soloist leads to thehappier mood of the true second subject, echoed by the woodwind and followed by darkermoments in the central development. The F major slow movement has won recent fame, by itsuse in the film Elvira Madigan, but is, nevertheless, one of the most beautiful ofMozart's slow movements, moving in its apparent simplicity and lack of bravura, butcomplex, in fact, in its harmonic pattern. Trumpets and drums return for the final rondo,its principal theme announced by the orchestra and repeated by the soloist. The movementprovides a relaxation of mood, a carefully balanced and lighter conclusion to a concertoof much substance.
>Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, in south Hungary, in 1952. Hestarted to learn the piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academyof Music under Katalin Nemes and Pal Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter on hisgraduation in 1974. Jand6 has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad,including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in thechamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. In additionto his many appearances in Hungary, he has played widely abroad in Eastern and WesternEurope, in Canada and in Japan. He is currently engaged in a project to record allMozart's piano concertos for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include theconcertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete pianosonatas.
The Concentus Hungaricus was established in February 1985 byPeter Popa and consists of leading members of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra under theco-leadership of Ildiko Hegyi and Pal Andrassy. The 16 member ensemble has worked withleading Hungarian and foreign musicians, includin