KOZELUCH Piano Concertos Nos 1, 5 & 6
What if Mozart had never lived? Then perhaps we’d hold the Bohemian composer Leopold Kozeluch in higher regard. Certainly he was widely admired in his own time, even if Beethoven was a tad dismissive. He arrived in Vienna three years before Mozart whose senior he was by nine years and whom he outlived by 27.
The three concertos presented here by Howard Shelley and the London Mozart Players get the best possible renditions, full of imagination, taking the music as seriously as if it were by Mozart himself. In that regard, they are in a different league from the ones by Tomas Dratva with the Slovak Sinfonietta.
The opening of the First Concerto has a palpable sense of barely contained excitement, even if you wouldn’t look to Kozeluch for particularly searching development sections. But charm is to be found at every turn, not least in the spacious Adagio of No 1, introduced by strings, the piano then entering with a sinuous melody. It’s there in the variation-theme Andante of No 5, too, performed with rapt luminosity by Shelley et al. And how Kozeluch loves a good rollicking 6/8 finale, as witness the infectious rondos of his First and Fifth concertos, the latter delightfully underlining the effect by introducing horns for the hunting motif itself. In the opening Allegro of the Sixth Concerto, Shelley and the LMP relish the music’s sense of purpose, savouring every phrase to full effect. It’s impossible to imagine more compelling performances of this music – Howard Shelley is truly a rescuer of lost musical souls. And he and his orchestra enjoy a finely balanced recording, the allure of the disc being completed by typically entertaining and informative notes from Richard Wigmore.