Thursday, January 05, 2023

Piano Concertos by Mozart, Martini, and Sterkel

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Piano Concertos by Mozart, Martini, and Sterkel

A selection of piano concertos from the late 18th century

A selection of piano concertos from the late 18th century

This CD features a selection of piano concertos from the late 18th century, including works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giovanni Battista Martini, and Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel. The pianist on the recording is Yorck Kronenberg, who plays on a fortepiano from c.1805, and the orchestra is the small but skilled Capriccio Barockorchester, led by concertmaster Dominik Kiefer.

The standout work on the CD is undoubtedly Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, which leads off the program. Kronenberg delivers a strong performance, using his own cadenzas and interacting effectively with the orchestra. The strings, in particular, are noteworthy for their largely vibrato-free playing, and the horns provide a solid foundation for the harmonies. The balance between the orchestra and the fortepiano may be slightly off at times, with the horns sounding particularly bright in the central movement, but overall the performance is fluent and fluid, particularly in the finale.

Martini's Piano Concerto in G major is on a smaller scale than Mozart's, but still holds its own with its energetic and vital music. The solo-then-orchestra structure allows for some particularly striking moments, such as the searching, melancholy violin aria in the slow movement and the clean, brisk finale. Sterkel's Concerto, Op. 26 No. 2, written the year after Mozart's, is a more conventional work, but it is still fluent and elegant, with sensitively shaped and thoughtful slower movements and a catchy Rondo finale.

Throughout the CD, Kronenberg performs with wit and elegance, bringing a sense of emotive depth to each work. The recording quality is generally good, with Kronenberg well-captured. While it would have been nice to have a less well-known concerto included to increase the novelty factor, Mozart's inclusion anchors the disc stylishly and the other works more than hold their own. Overall, this is a strong offering for fans of classical piano music.

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