Klassik  SoloInstrument mit Orchester
Lars Vogt & Ivor Bolton & Mozarteumorchester Salzburg Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Klavierkonzerte Nr. 20 & Nr. 23 OC 727 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 727
Release date04/03/2009
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus

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      Description hide

      Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
      Piano Concertos No. 20 & No. 23
      Lars Vogt, piano
      Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg
      Ivor Bolton, conductor

      Lars Vogt is one of the most distinguished German contemporary pianists. His distinct enthusiasm for chamber music is a welcome change to the pure virtuoso skills and the limited range of grand gestures displayed by a mere “ivory tickler”. His views allow us to expect especially accomplished Mozart interpretations, as the “pieces of luck” presented here show. Together with the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg conducted by Ivor Bolton, he made two live recordings in Salzburg (K. 488 from the opening concert of the Karajan anniversary year in January 2008, K. 466 from the Mozart matinees during the Salzburg Festival in 2008).

      Motion, drama and balance

      The two works performed here are the most popular piano concertos stemming from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s pen. In the polarity of their fundamental emotional character, they present, so to speak, the entire spectrum of Mozartean art. Like Joseph Haydn, Mozart also composed great symphonies, string quartets and sacred works. Although his oeuvre is many times smaller than Haydn’s, it is of equal status and demonstrates the highest inspiration. And yet: when one considers what Mozart’s most unsurpassed works are, it is his operas and solo concertos, especially the piano concertos, that first come to mind. As wonderful as Haydn’s creations in these genres may be, they seldom achieve Mozart’s heights. It is not easy to enumerate the reasons for this because in the area of logic, of argumentation – which was one of the unsurpassed strengths of Haydn as a musician – the question cannot be decided.

      I see one reason in Haydn’s gentle piety. Mozart’s frivolity is commonly known. He handles all facets of human existence with ease, expressing them assuredly and uninhibitedly. Can one imagine a Don Giovanni by Haydn, or from another of Mozart’s contemporaries? The very idea brings a smile to the face. Not for another century would a much more one-sided talent, Richard Strauss, take up the thread once again. The drama and theatricality of Mozart’s music has often been discussed – e.g. the contrast between soli and tutti in his solo concertos. Particularly in the Concerto in D Minor, such contrast can be seen in its most subtle as well as apparent forms. Take the first movement: the orchestra’s material is its own and remains its own. The solo part has its own role in this movement. It retains its individuality when confronting the orchestra, remaining unmistakably ‘on course’ throughout the finely woven passages with the wind solos.

      The Concerto in D Minor was the only one of Mozart’s piano concertos that remained in the repertoire after his death. Beethoven wrote two cadenzas for it; his first-movement cadenza splendidly transforms Mozart’s voice into one that expresses the Faustian dimensions of his own emotional world. In the romantic period, minor keys were loved above all – in contrast to the bright illumination of the classic era. One must only look at Mendelssohn or Schumann’s works. The Concerto in D Minor rapidly gained standing as an eminent predecessor of Beethoven. It was – just like Don Giovanni – absorbed by those with the restless yearning and continual striving for the nocturnal and mysterious visions of E.T.A. Hoffmann and others like him. The Concerto in A Major also has its place here – not because of its overall key, but because of its slow movement in F-sharp Minor, which likewise captured the hearts of following generations with its infinitely tender, dark intensity and introverted tone painting.

      It is enlightening to note that our highly sheltered concert life is still primarily influenced by the spirit of the romantic – despite all revolutionary attempts to regain authentic music-making practice. Between the romantic era, its late outliers and our age, we find the adventure of the modern: the attempt to find as many ways as possible of escaping the captivation of sentimentality and traditional laws; the call to burn all bridges to yesterday and to overthrow the gods of the past. The modern age left audiences behind with its many faces and arrogant ambitions. In part, it negated or in part forgot attributes like “directly experiential context”, “beauty” or “unprejudiced sensitivity for accessible narrative art”. It is no surprise that contemporary composers who pick up the thread of romantic emotionality or the pure beauty of sound so loved in earlier times are especially successful today. It stands out that minor keys are preferred more than ever (Pärt, Górecki, Vasks). This probably means that the popularity of certain works will not diminish (in the case of Mozart’s piano concertos, the Concerto in C Minor as well as the concertos K. 271 and 482 with their middle movements in minor must also be mentioned. However, the Concerto in D Minor is doubtless the frontrunner due to its strongly contrasting, dramatically surging minor-key middle section in the delightful second movement in B-flat Major).

      What a grandiose melody-writer Mozart is, far superior to all of his contemporaries, can particularly be heard in the Concerto in A Major. The primary subject of the first movement is on the one hand completely catchy, characteristic and natural; on the other hand, however, its exceptional inspiration is due to the fact that it is no common melody that simply anyone could have thought up. Just as in his use of harmony, Mozart is a master of keeping everything in balance. He never lets any one mood dominate or burden the whole. Everything always remains in motion. Tension and relaxation in Mozart’s melodies is always articulated naturally; no harmony lasts too long – in contrast to passages found in Cherubini or even Beethoven (in his enthusiasm…) (which caused unromantic satirists like Erik Satie to create wonderful musical commentaries). Mozart’s melodies are particularly amazing and beautiful because he never succumbs to the lethargy of an “Ah, linger on, thou art so fair”.

      Mozart is simply not a romantic composer, but always had both feet solidly on the ground. At the same time, he always went beyond the customary to transcend the conditions of existence. How could it be any different with a man who cultivated such an exceptional relationship to the boundaries of earthly life? On April 4, 1787, not all too long after the composition of the two works discussed here, Mozart wrote to his father:

      “Because death (to be precise) is the true and ultimate purpose of our life, I have started getting to know this true best friend of man for several years, becoming so well acquainted with him that not only is his image no longer horrifying to me, but is quite calming and comforting! and I thank my God that he has granted me the happiness to create the opportunity to get to know him as the key to our true blessedness. – I never go to bed without realizing that (as young as I am) I may not live to see the next day – and no person who knows me can say that I am surly or sad – and I thank my creator daily for this blessedness and sincerely wish every one of my fellowmen this experience as well.”

      The concertos in D Minor and A Major were composed during Mozart’s happy period in Vienna when he celebrated great successes as a virtuoso. Of course, he wrote them for himself. He first performed the Concerto in D Minor on February 11, 1785 in one of his own ‘Academy’ subscription concerts. A good ten years later, on March 11, 1795, the stormy young Beethoven would perform it for Mozart’s widow Konstanze. Mozart presumably premiered the Concerto in A Major, completed on March 2, 1786, in the same month. He wrote these works “for a small circle of music lovers”. From April 1786 on, his star as a virtuoso in Vienna began to descend, however, and he was soon no longer en vogue. (Graf Arco, Head Chef at the Salzburg court of Archbishop Colloredo and Mozart’s superior, had expressly warned Mozart in 1781 when he was about to move to Vienna: “…believe me, you are letting yourself be too bedazzled; – a person’s fame lasts only for a short time – one receives praise right from the start and gains much, that is true – but for how long? – after a few months, the Viennese once again want something new.” ) The further history of this immortal music takes place post mortem. Werner Egk, Bavaria’s most exceptional opera composer after Richard Strauss, found a good likeness for the role that Mozart’s music has played and will continue to play:

      In a profoundly moving verse, poet Hölty extols the heartwarming green of a tiny box tree in an icy winter garden:

      “Only you,
      my tiny box tree,
      raise your green crown
      to mock winter’s power!
      Thus does Mozart bloom
      as well in a world of ice and iron;
      and will do so in all times to come.”

      Christoph Schlüren
      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor KV 466
        (Cadenzas by Lars Vogt)
        • 1.Allegro13:57
        • 2.Romanze08:38
        • 3.Rondo. Allegro assai.07:19
      • Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major KV 488
        (Cadenza by W.A. Mozart)
        • 4.Allegro11:01
        • 5.Adagio06:33
        • 6.Allegro assai08:32
      • Total:56:00