The Jupiter Project
David Owen Norris plays a gloriously resonant Broadwood and his colleagues play appropriate 18th- (or 17th-) century instruments. The music is Mozart, refracted through the prism of his contemporaries. Orchestral and operatic music like this was often arranged for domestic performance; in the case of the music on this disc, each of the arrangers was a virtuoso pianist in his own right.
Naturally, therefore, the lion’s share of the work falls to the tireless Norris. Flute, violin and cello are largely confined to colouring lines already present in the piano part’s right or left hand. In fact, one has the unfamiliar sensation of wishing for more from the flute in the two overtures (one of them, after all, is named after it!). But the piano is the star here, and it sounds as if these arrangements would, for the most part, be just as persuasive if the single-line instruments were absent.
It’s true that arranging a piano concerto for this ‘Jupiter ensemble’ irons out to some extent the contrast between tutti and solo. The two overtures, too, cannot convey the nervous energy of the orchestral versions. But the Jupiter itself is an unmitigated triumph. This work is tricky enough – especially in the breathtaking counterpoint of the finale – when played as a piano duet. Performing it with only two hands, in an arrangement that preserves nearly every polyphonic strand, is a brilliant tour de force, with the invaluable bonus of the finale’s second repeat being taken, heightening the effect of the work’s cathartic coda.
At this point in a review of this sort of project it’s customary to add the caveat that these arrangements can’t begin to do justice to Mozart’s original conception of these works. In this case, thanks to four fully committed musicians – primarily the indefatigable Norris – that’s poppycock. The Jupiter, especially, is required listening.