MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 7, 10 and 15 (Concentus Hungaricus/ Denes Varjon/ Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando/ Matyas Antal) (Naxos: 8.550210)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 -1791)
Piano Concerto in B Flat Major, K. 450
Piano Concerto in F Major, K. 242 'Lodron'
Piano Concerto in E Flat Major, K. 365
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. Mozartw rote 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.
The second half of the eighteenth century also broughtconsiderable changes in keyboard instruments, as the harpsichord was gradually supersededby the fortepiano or pianoforte, with its hammer action, an instrument capable of dynamicnuances impossible on the older instrument, while the hammer-action clavichord from whichthe piano developed had too little carrying power for public performance. The instrumentsMozart had in Vienna, by the best contemporary makers, had a lighter touch than the modernpiano, with action and leather-padded hammers that made greater delicacy of articulationpossible, among other differences. They seem well suited to Mozart's own style of playing,by comparison with which the later virtuosity of Beethoven seemed to some contemporariesrough and harsh.
In February 1784 Mozart began to keep a list of hiscompositions, the first entry in his catalogue the Eflat major Piano Concerto, K. 449, and the autograph carries the same date, 9thFebruary. The Concerto in B flat, K. 450, isentered as completed on 15th March and the Concerto inD major, K. 451, under 22nd March.
The B flat Concerto, K.450,shares its opening theme between wind instruments and strings, the soloist capping theorchestral exposition with a show of dexterity before proceeding to his own version of theprincipal theme and a solo part that makes use of the widest range of the keyboard. Thereis an E flat major slow movement which allows the soloist further opportunity for lyricalbrilliance in variations on the theme, and a final rondo based on a cheerful principaltheme.
The Concerto in F, K. 242,known sometimes as the Lodron Concerto, was written in February 1776 and designed forCountess Antonia Lodron and her daughters Aloisia and Josepha, with due allowance, in theoriginal version, for the limited technique of the younger girl. Mozart later arranged thework for two pianos. It formed part of his repertoire on the journey to Paris and heplayed the second piano part himself in Augsburg, his father's native city, in October1777, when the Augsburg cathedral organist Johann Michael Demmler played the first partand the distinguished instrument-maker Andreas Stein the third. It was played in Mannheimin March 1778, two days before Mozart and his mother left for Paris, the performers beingRose Cannabich, daughter of the director of instrumental music in Mannheim, Aloisia Weber,the young singer on whom Mozart had at the time set his heart, and Therese PierronSerrarious, daughter of the Mannheim Privy Court Councillor, in whose house Mozart wasstaying. The Lodrons were people of some importance in Salzburg. Countess Antonia Lodron,before her marriage Countess Arco, was the wife of the hereditary Court Marshal CountErnst Lodron, and a woman about whom Leopold Mozart had his own reservations when he foundhimself inveigled into giving her daughters lessons.
The concerto is a work of considerable charm and evenbrilliance, in spite of the relatively limited circumstances of its composition, intendedfor three amateurs, rather than the very much more professional performers it had inAugsburg and, we must suppose, in Mannheim. Mozart shows his genius, as other composershave done, in writing within these restrictions of technique, reminding us, in the wordsof Goethe, that in der Beschrankung zeight sich erst der Meister. There is an elegantinterplay between the three keyboard instruments and the work is scored, otherwise, forthe usual orchestra, with pairs of oboes and horns. The strings are muted in the slowmovement, and in the final rondo, in the speed of a minuet, the Countess and occasionallyher eider daughter are allowed to shine in solitary prominence.
The E flat double concerto,K. 365 offers balanced and well-matched solo parts. There was no need to makeany concession to the undoubted abilities either of Nannerl Mozart or of Josephine vonAuernhammer, whatever view Mozart might have held of the physical attributes of thelatter. As usual the appearance of the soloists is delayed until after an orchestralexposition, followed by the entry of the soloists on an E flat trill, after which theytake it in turns to announce the principal theme again and to proceed to music in whichthey have the main share of themes to themselves.
The B flat slow movement touches on more sombre thoughts in abrief excursion into C minor, but a mood of graceful serenity prevails over any lurkingsense of tragedy, for which the time had not yet come. The final rondo is introduced bythe orchestra with the principal theme, which is followed by the soloists with differentmaterial. The re-appearance of the principal theme is followed by a section in C minor,after which the second piano leads the way back to the main theme. Further developmentsfollow before the theme is re-introduced, ushering in a cadenza and the soloists'repetition of the theme, before the concluding remarks of the orchestra.
Jeno Jano 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. Jano 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 and sonatas for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos labelinclude the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and the complete piano sonatas ofBeethoven.
Denes Varjon was born in Budapest in 1968 and studied thereunder Sandar Falvai at the Academy of Music, where he now serves as a demonstrator in thePiano Department. He has taken part in master-classes in Hungary and abroad under the mostdistinguished teachers, and recent prizes include the 1991 award of first prize in theGeza Anda Piano Competition in Zurich. He has appeared as a recitalist and soloistthroughout Europe, and far three seasons in the Prussia Cove Open Chamber Music. At homehe is a frequent performer for Hungarian Radio.