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Mozart – Piano Concertos No 18 & 22 / Brautigam, Willens, Cologne Academy

Mozart
Release Date: 04/29/2014 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 2044   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ronald Brautigam
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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MOZART Piano Concertos Nos. 18 and 22 Ronald Brautigam (fp); Michael Alexander Willens, cond; Cologne Academy BIS 2044 (SACD: 60:03)

It hasn’t been that long ( Fanfare 37:4, actually) since I reviewed an earlier disc in this series, one containing the 20th and 27th concertos. I Read more had forgotten doing so, however, when I requested the present disc for review. This either means that I am getting senile, that Brautigam’s Mozart did not make much of an impression on me, or that there are so many good recordings of Mozart’s piano concertos that it is difficult to remember them at all. Taking a look at that earlier review, it appears that the third alternative is the correct one. I called the disc “lovely stuff,” although I did have a few minor reservations about it, especially in comparison to Jos van Immerseel’s performances on Channel Classics.

Not much has changed. The string ensemble (4:4:2:2:2) has not become any larger, and Brautigam still is using a copy by Walter McNulty of a fortepiano by Anton Walter, although it is not exactly the same instrument. The balance between the fortepiano and the orchestra is excellent; the former never is in danger of being obscured by the latter, except perhaps in the very loudest passages.

I like both performances, but Concerto No. 22 comes off better than Concerto No. 18. Brautigam and the Cologne Academy are a trifle heavy-handed and overly objective in the earlier work. The slow movement is not as affectionate as one would like it to be, and the finale lacks humor, and also a bit of sensitivity—the main theme’s repeated notes sound too much like pecking here. Immerseel’s slightly slower tempo and less aggressive articulation are to his advantage. Simply stated, Immerseel is more fun.

Concerto No. 22, a decidedly grander work, is in E?—the same key as Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, and was Beethoven thinking of Mozart’s Concerto when he composed the “Emperor”? Here, Immerseel and Brautigam/Willens are more closely matched. Immerseel’s orchestra, Anima Eterna, is more characterful than the Cologne Academy, but the latter ensemble’s instrumental balances are superior. (Anima Eterna tends to sound bass heavy.) This time around, it is Brautigam and Willens who find more bounce and wit in the last movement. Even at a faster tempo, they have enough room to capture the music’s genial personality.

I maintain my earlier assertion that Brautigam/Willens can stand up to Bilson (DG Archiv) and Levin (L’Oiseau-Lyre and Decca). If you are lucky enough to have Immerseel’s performances, though, rest assured that you have a very good set, and you might not want to replace it unless you want SACDs instead of conventional discs.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 22 in E flat major, K 482 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ronald Brautigam (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy
Period: Classical 
Written: 1785; Vienna, Austria 
2.
Concerto for Piano no 18 in B flat major, K 456 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ronald Brautigam (Fortepiano)
Conductor:  Michael Alexander Willens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Academy
Period: Classical 
Written: 1784; Vienna, Austria 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-Flat Major, K. 456: I. Allegro vivace
Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-Flat Major, K. 456: II. Andante un poco sostenuto
Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-Flat Major, K. 456: III. Allegro vivace
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-Flat Major, K. 482: I. Allegro
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-Flat Major, K. 482: II. Andante
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-Flat Major, K. 482: III. Allegro

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