Mozart Martini 7211

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466 (1785)
Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784)
Piano Concerto in G major
Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel (1750-1817)
Piano Concerto, Op.26 No.2 (1786)
Yorck Kronenberg (fortepiano)
Capriccio Barockorchester/Dominik Kiefer
rec. 2021, Kurbrunnenanlage, Rheinfelden, Switzerland
TUDOR 7211 [75]

This trio of Piano Concertos from the 1780s – that by Martini (‘Padre Martini’) is undated and is possibly somewhat earlier – offers a select overview of the form at the time. It would be too much to say that both Mozart and Sterkel gravitated around Martini as Mozart met him only briefly – when Martini gave Mozart a musical examination in 1770, professing amazement at his accomplishments – and when Sterkel journeyed to Italy to further his musical development he met Martini, but then anyone musical who went to Italy met Martini, so famous was he. However, Sterkel certainly met Mozart, who wasn’t much impressed by Sterkel’s pianism. So, there is a series of cross-currents involved in the programming which prove resilient.

Mozart’s Concerto in D minor rightly leads and is played by Yorck Kronenberg who performs on a fortepiano after Walter and Sohn c.1805. Capriccio Barockorchester is directed by their concertmaster Dominik Kiefer. The band is a small one, five first violins, four seconds, two violas, two cellos and so on. It’s certainly not puny but it doesn’t replicate the relatively bracing plushness of a modern instrument orchestra – say the ECO for Murray Perahia. The results are attractive, the strings playing without vibrato for the most part, and the horns buttressing the harmonies. As for balances maybe those horns are too bright in the central movement, but the finale is fluent and fluid. As throughout the disc Kronenberg plays his own cadenzas.

Martini’s concerto is on a much more compact scale than Mozart’s and is cast in four movements. It’s perhaps a better vehicle for the fortepiano, being rather more backward-looking than Mozart’s Concerto but containing enough vitality and energy to keep attention. Martini adopts a solo-then -orchestra approach, the fortepiano and orchestra very rarely interacting. Perhaps the most striking movement is the slow one, a searching melancholy aria for the pirouetting, decorating solo violin and then the piano, redolent of Martini’s vocal work. A sprightly Allegro leads onto a clean, brisk Vivace finale.

Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel, to give him his full baptismal name, wrote his Concerto Op 26 No.2 the year after Mozart’s D minor. It’s a fluent and elegant affair with dips to the minor to highlight standard expressive states and a sensitively shaped, thoughtful Adagio. This was a work designed for his own use in performance and whatever Mozart may have thought of him, he was clearly an accomplished performer. The attractive Rondo finale has some catchy elements and if it’s a more conventional concerto than Martini’s, that’s not altogether surprising.

Kronenberg performs with plenty of wit and elegance, bringing to each work its own emotive temperature and he has been pretty well recorded. Perhaps a less well-known concerto than Mozart’s might have increased the relative novelty quotient, but Mozart grounds the disc stylishly.

Jonathan Woolf

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