Barry Douglas/Camerata Ireland – Mozart Concertos

Piano Concerto No.12 in A, K414
Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat, K595
Piano Concerto No.25 in C, K503

Camerata Ireland
Barry Douglas (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 28 November, 2006
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

Fresh from Paris and en route to Dublin, Camerata Ireland and Barry Douglas performed here three Mozart piano concertos without any sense of flagging. Indeed the energy levels might have been slightly too high given that fast movements, although always poised, could have been notched back in impetuosity to advantage, and tended to be a little faster when Douglas played in relation to what he had conducted by way of orchestral introduction.

Otherwise there was much to admire in the wholly ingenuous manner in which pianist and orchestra set about their task. The first half contrasted ‘early’ and ‘late’ concertos, although there now appears conjecture as to when Mozart actually composed the B flat work: maybe earlier than is thought. Certainly Douglas brought a spring to its step and the work seemed less autumnal and less valedictory than can be the case; convincingly so, especially as the recesses of the music were also touchingly brought out, not least in the slow movement in which Douglas’s ornamentation seemed appropriately spontaneous.

Earlier, in the delightful A major concerto, there was an unforced elegance, a crispness, and a wit that compelled attention, the outer movements sparkling either side of the eloquent slow movement.

Throughout the evening, Camerata Ireland’s transparent and lively music-making was unfailingly responsive – as it needed to be, for although Douglas led the tuttis as a ‘proper’ conductor (sitting for the A major, otherwise standing), when he was playing, with a characteristic lack of flamboyance and a wholesome concentration on the music, Douglas had, of course, only recourse to the occasional head and hand gestures. Camerata Ireland can be directed and can answer in equal measure; Graham Salter’s oboe solos were especially affecting.

In the great C major concerto, Douglas set a suitably spacious tempo for the opening Allegro maestoso – but needed more of a presence from the trumpets and timpani – and found a greater tonal resource from his excellent-sounding Steinway. And it must be said that Cadogan Hall proved the perfect location for this event, the acoustic ideal in its intimacy and focus. If, as before, the tempo increased when Douglas was playing, the majesty and depth of the first movement wasn’t compromised. A shame that the first-movement cadenza wasn’t identified (Douglas used Mozart’s, otherwise) – the pianist’s own, presumably – a diverse and brilliant creation that seemed to pun Beethoven (maybe the ‘Waldstein’ sonata). Douglas’s tempo contrasts in the Andante were diverting, in every sense, and if the finale was sprightly, Douglas, as throughout, was able to yield for ‘special’ moments.

Encores were not expected, but the “Elvira Madigan” slow movement from ‘another’ C major concerto (K467), languorous and shapely, threatened to steal the show, and “Londonderry Air” (‘Danny Boy’), presumably in Percy Grainger’s arrangement (or one of them), was delivered from the heart.

With recordings of Beethoven’s piano concertos almost complete from this team, it is to be hoped that Douglas and Camerata Ireland will now start a Mozart series for Satirino; such unaffected but perceptive and dynamic renditions are likely to make fine additions to the catalogue.

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