The sixth disc in this highly acclaimed series combine two works in which Mozart's powers as an orchestrator come to the fore. Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, K 456, is sometimes referred to as one of the composers military concertos on the basis of the march-like main theme of the first movement. But more striking is the variety of ways that Mozart employs the various groups of instruments: strings, wind instruments and, of course, the piano. This aspect certainly didn't pass unnoticed by a listener as initiated as Mozart's father Leopold: in a letter to his daughter Nannerl he described how his enjoyment of the orchestral interplay had brought tears to his eyes.
Ronald Brautigam, with the congenial support of Die Kölner Akademie, under Michael Alexander Willens, here performs Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 24 and 25, both composed in 1786. The C major concerto is in fact one of the most expansive of all classical piano concertos, rivalling Beethoven’s fifth concerto. Their grandeur immediately made them popular fare in the concert hall – Mendelssohn, for instance, had No.24 in his repertoire through the 1820s and 1830s.
In the summer of 1781 Mozart described his new home Vienna as "the land of the piano". He soon set about presenting his own subscription concerts, offering the three newly-composed concertos on this disc for publication "either with a large orchestra or a quattro". The latter, more intimate versions of these charming works are performed here by Robert Blocker, Dean of Music and Professor of Piano at Yale University, and the youthful Biava Quartet, winners of the Naumburg Chamber Music Award and top prizes at the Premio Borciani and London International Competitions.
This is the most beautiful of Mozart playing, his last piano concerto given here by Emil Gilels with total clarity. This is a classic performance, memorably accompanied by the VPO and Böhm. Suffice it to say that Gilels sees everything and exaggerates nothing, that the performance has an Olympian authority and serenity, and that the Larghetto is one of the glories of the gramophone. He's joined by his daughter Elena in the Double Piano Concerto in E flat, and their physical relationship is mirrored in the quality, and the mutual understanding of the playing: both works receive marvellous interpretations. We think Emil plays first, Elena second, but could be quite wrong. The VPO under Karl Böhm is at its best; and so is the quality of recording, with a good stereo separation of the two solo parts, highly desirable in this work.