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Layman's Review: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concertos, K271 & K503 (No. 9 and No. 25)
This is a layman's review of Mozart's Piano Concertos, K271 & K503 as performed by Alfred Brendel and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Sir Charles Mackerras conducting.
Did you know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was largely responsible for creating the piano concerto as a genre? Neither did I until I bought this CD.
It seems that young Wolfgang was so enamored by the form that he became the driving force behind the Concerto, so much so that the Piano Concerto became the dominant form within a decade. On this CD are his 9th and 25th Piano Concertos. He published 27 piano Concertos in his short life, though he may written as many as 35.
This CD is a Hybrid SACD. SACDs, or Super Audio CDs, are supposed to hold much more data and provide for better overall sound quality, but you need new equipment to play them. The hybrid part means that it is both SACD and plain old vanilla CD so it will play on old equipment as well as new SACD players. Unfortunately, I do not yet own an SACD capable player so I cannot comment on this aspect of the CD. However, I can attest to the excellent sound quality on normal CD players.
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major ("Jeunehomme," "Jenamy"), K. 271
The name "Jeunehomme", or "Jenamy" is attributed to a well-known pianist of the time for whom Mozart composed this concerto.
Mozart's playful nature is evident from the first interplay between the strings and piano in the first movement of this piece. It is lighthearted and joyful, with lush orchestral sounds. The playful interplay between orchestra and piano continue throughout 1st movement, often with a call and response aspect.
The 2nd movement is slow and in a minor key. This makes a stark contrast to the playful 1st movement. This movement is mournful and plaintive. There's a lot of emotional development here.
The 3rd movement is a rousing presto rondeau (rondeau meaning the last movement, and presto meaning fast) in which the piano finally takes center stage. It almost has a galloping feel, somewhat reminiscent of the William Tell Overture (A.K.A. The Lone Ranger's theme). This movement is a celebration after having passed through the melancholy second movement. I love this movement; it's why I bought the CD.
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503
Mozart's 25th piano concerto has a much grander introduction than his 9th. It sounds very much like a precursor to Beethoven's writing.
One prominent theme in opening movement almost seems to lead the listener's ear to the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise", but then turns away at the last moment. If you don't think you know it, you probably do. Check this out (at about 45 seconds in, the band starts playing it.):
Casablanca - Rick´s Bar
Interestingly, it was Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture that kept playing in my head when I heard the theme in the 25th piano concerto. That led me to do some digging and realized that Tchaikovsky "used extensive quotes from the Marseillaise to represent the invading French army in his 1812 Overture." I also learned that Mozart influenced Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, the composer of La Marseillaise. So, that explains this common thread between Mozart's 25th piano concerto and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
Alfred Brendel is the reason I purchased this particular CD. I had fallen for the 3rd movement of Mozart's 9th piano concerto after hearing it on vacation and I resolved to find a copy.
I saw a lot of Beethoven played by Alfred Brendel on the digital cable music channel and he intrigued me. I had heard he is largely self-taught and have read him quoted as saying, "I learned to distrust everything until I figured it out myself." When I saw a CD of him performing Mozart's 9th piano concerto, it was the perfect opportunity. I have not been disappointed.
Brendel on YouTube:
I would recommend this CD for anyone looking to add to his or her Mozart collection, or who is looking for something representative of W. A. Mozart's piano concertos. The 9th is still fairly early in his writing and the 25th is very near his last piano concerto, so it provides a nice bookend effect. The musicianship and production quality are superb. I've always found Mozart to be very representative of music form the classical period, and as such his music is pleasantly balanced. This makes for ideal listening for situations such as preparing or eating dinner, relaxing before bed, background music for reading, studying, or working.
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