Piano Concerto No.6 in B flat, K238
Piano Concerto No.15 in B flat, K450
Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat, K595
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano)
Recorded live on 5 & 6 July 2005 in Stefaniensaal, Graz
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: January 2006
CD No: WARNER CLASSICS
Duration: 77 minutes
Best known as an outstanding interpreter of 20th-century music, Pierre-Laurent Aimard in now heard in a (maybe) new and unexpected guise and with remarkably stylish results.
Even though B flat is Mozart’s feel-good key, three consecutive concertos all in this key might be thought rather too much of a good thing. However each concerto is drawn from a different period – and there is far more variety than might be imagined.
Two factors contribute greatly to the success of this issue. Firstly, Aimard’s exceptional technique enables him to play with extreme clarity using a minimal amount of pedal yet without sounding in the least dry or prissy: Aimard’s is playing brimful of character yet as clean as a whistle. Secondly, the contribution of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe is a huge plus; such is the quality of the musicians’ response that each concerto sounds like chamber music writ large: K238 has an exuberantly detailed orchestral contribution, and far from sounding like lesser Mozart, this partnership really manages to make one sit up in amazement at the sheer quality of the 20-year-old Mozart’s inspiration, especially in the miraculous slow movement.
The other two concertos are far better known. As Lindsay Kemp’s perceptive booklet note makes clear, K450 marks a staging post in Mozart’s development and was the first of his concertos to make full use of the superior wind-playing he found in Vienna, the orchestral introduction being essentially a dialogue between woodwinds and strings. Aimard and the COE constantly lead one’s ear forward; an exuberant live performance.
Even the very familiar K595, in which recorded competition is fiercest, comes up newly minted and free of interpretative point-making. Considering that this is one of the hardest concertos to bring off, Aimard succeeds in sounding completely natural and full of an unaffected wisdom: the sort of reaction one used to have to Solomon’s Mozart.
Crucially, the balances not only between piano and orchestra but also within the orchestra are superbly managed and the sound is excellent. A very distinguished release.