It is always refreshing to hear central movements of Mozart Piano Concertos moving forward purposefully and this is how Jean-Efflam Bavouzet views them. In his booklet note he mentions Mozart’s letter to his father written during 1784 (both K449 and K459 were composed then) in which he points out that none of his Concertos of that year includes a slow movement. While not eschewing expressiveness, a firm momentum is afforded the more thoughtful melodies and it typifies Bavouzet’s approach to K449. Given rhythmically secure accompaniment the music moves boldly, welding cadenzas firmly into the structure. With suitably weighty bass strings the central Andantino is accompanied colourfully and the forcefulness of the (modern) piano in the Finale is suitably matched. Delightful bouncing rhythm here – simple themes yet each makes its point.
It’s sensible to place the two Divertimentos between the Concertos and the excellent acoustic of the RNCM Hall certainly enriches the sound. Gábor Takács-Nagy tends to phrase melodies in a somewhat legato manner with full, well-sustained chords and occasionally violinists are permitted a touch of portamento. Crescendos are added to rising phrases, restatements of tunes are sometimes played more quietly and Takács-Nagy makes only the first-time repeat in each movement. I was surprised however to hear the first eight bars of the Finale of K138 reprised because it’s not marked and the repetition spoils the symmetry.
The Concerto K459 sounds a little more mature despite having been composed close to K449. Here is an extensive first movement given a confident reading with the Manchester Camerata notably well-balanced against Bavouzet, woodwinds notably clear. Bavouzet’s is a noble conception and there is complete rapport with Takács-Nagy. There is much room for thoughtful expression in the central Allegretto and Bavouzet provides it – a moving, sensitive reading – and the Finale exudes joyfulness: Bavouzet’s quaint moment of hesitation in the cadenza shows that he is at-one with Mozart when it comes to wittiness.