Mozart Clarinet Concerto; Piano Concerto No 27
“Mozart: The Last Concertos” runs the rubric on the CD booklet, though as a counter to any sentimental “swansong” associations, it is worth remembering that both works were substantially sketched several years before they reached their final form in 1791. Yet while their valedictory aura may have been over-stressed, they do have in common a serene, sometimes rarefied lyricism and an intimate, chamber-musical interplay between soloists and orchestra.
As is the norm these days, Lorenzo Coppola plays the Clarinet Concerto in its restored original form for basset clarinet, whose extra low notes decisively darken the work's overall tinta. While always sensitive to the music's tenderness and wistful grace (he uses rubato liberally and, on the whole, convincingly), he is more inclined than most to cultivate a raw, throaty tone when he plunges into the deep chalumeau register. In the Adagio Coppola vindicates his slow tempo with his purity and eloquence of line, though the middle section (more rasping chalumeau notes here) is slightly compromised by the otherwise excellent orchestra's heavy stressing of the repeated-note accompanying figures.
A controversial point in the keyboard concerto is the use of single strings to accompany the solo sections, so that much of the work becomes in effect a piano quintet with obbligato woodwind, reinforcing the concerto's chamber-musical tendencies. Playing an attractive copy of a 1780s Anton Walter fortepiano, with its beautiful silvery treble and light, nutty bass, Andreas Staier confirms his credentials as a Mozartian of flair and insight. He is careful not to overdo the first movement's elegiac associations. The development, with its close contrapuntal dialogues, unfolds with a fine impassioned sweep. The Larghetto ideally balances simplicity and expressive flexibility, while the gracefully lilting finale has just the right touch of quizzical playfulness.
While these beautifully recorded performances may not be to everyone's taste, they are never less than thought-provoking. And for me Staier's K595 takes its place as one of the most touching and compelling in the catalogue, period or modern.