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Mozart: The Piano Concertos

1 rating: 5.0
An album by English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, Malcolm Bilson, Melvyn Tan, Robert Levin, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
1 review about Mozart: The Piano Concertos

The Magic Fortepiano

  • Jul 23, 2008
Rating:
+5
Mozart was a Mason. A child of the Enlightenment. A believer in humanity's perfectability, who had the philosophical luck to die before the disappointments of the French revolution. He wrote music of tragedy and despair, but he never wrote a note of Gothic horror, of 'Romantic' reaction against rationality, a task he left untouched, shall we say, for the next generation. If you want your Mozart to sound like the art of someone who's been reading Schopenhauer, you won't like this set of piano concertos played by Malcolm Bilsen, with John Eliot Gardiner conducting.

Bilsen plays a period keyboard fortepiano, an instrument of much lighter construction than the modern pianoforte, on which the 'decay' of note reverberation is naturally quicker, making a softer and more transparent sound. The orchestra of period instruments that Gardiner conducts is also smaller by far and more carefully tuned than the modern symphony orchestra, and emphasizes the polyphonic/heterophonic interplay of all the voices of the composition. The tempi chosen by Gardiner are often faster, more nimble, more witty than most post-Wagnerian conductors choose. The result is a Mozart who sounds as if he's passed Sarastro's "initiation" into wisdom as portrayed in the Magic Flute, rather than settling into the syphilitic gloom of 19th C Romantic pianism.

There is no absolutely historically authenticized version of Mozart, and double-absolutely no "definitive" performance of these twenty-seven concertos. I recently made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that a performance of them on harpsichord might be revealing, since Mozart grew up in a milieu in which harpsichords were far more familiar than pianos of any sort. The touch required to play the fortepiano, Bilsen's instrument, is closer in some ways to a harpsichord touch than that developed by Liszt and Chopin. It's the touch, as much as the specific instrument, that matters for performing Mozart. Bilsen has the touch. I like his sound, a judgement by ear alone, better than that of Derek Han or Melvyn Tan, two other historical keyboard specialists. And I admire Gardiner's spunk - his musical intuition - even when occasionally his interpretations are rash.

But don't take my word for anything! Use the sample function; compare the same snippets from the same concertos on as many recordings as you have patience for. I'd suggest Concerto #20.

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Mozart: The Piano Concertos
Details
Label: Archiv Produktion
Release Date: March 13, 2001

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