Mozart Concertos Vol. 1 on Hyperion

2011-12-24 / / Graham Rickson

Mozart: Piano Concertos no 6, 8 and 9 Angela Hewitt (piano), Orchestra da Camera di Mantova (Hyperion)

This first volume in Angela Hewitt’s projected Mozart concerto series deserves praise for featuring three early pieces, instead of starting with the better-known mature works. Which isn’t a slight on these three concertos, each of which sounds like fully-formed Mozart, particularly the Concerto no 9, written when the composer was 20. Rather than a work made up of solos interspersed with tutti passages, piano and orchestra feel inseparable here, the piano making a cheeky entrance within seconds of the concerto’s opening. And the key of Eb seems to provide the cue for some sublime orchestral wind writing, with some delicious solos for oboes and horn in the first movement. Hewitt really shines in the enigmatic, melancholy slow movement, its brooding aria perfectly cast for a Baroque keyboard specialist to play. So few notes, but the art lies in making such superficially simple music express so much. This work is a masterpiece, and I’m glad that it was Hewitt’s performance which was my introduction to it.
The two earlier concertos are more conventional, but each offers many incidental pleasures – the flamboyant horn writing in the last movement of no 6, or the combination of grandeur and effervescence at the start of no 8. Hewitt’s performances, directing the Orchestra da Camera di Mantova from the keyboard, are brilliant. She’s both witty and profound. And, most importantly, she’s never too sweet or sentimental in her approach; Mozart’s music doesn’t need kid gloves or an excess of sugar to have an impact. You also get Hewitt’s erudite, entertaining sleeve notes in the CD booklet.