Mozart Piano Concertos, Vol. 1

2011-10-02 / / Norman Lebrecht

Mozart: Piano Concertos 6, 8, 9

The Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, vastly popular in Bach, opens a cycle of the 27 Mozart concertos in an unlikely location, at the wrong time of year and with an offbeat orchestra. The venue is Toblach in the Italian Dolomites, where Mahler spent his last three summers, it’s knee-deep in skis and the ensemble is a chamber group from Mantua, little known beyond national borders.

Hewitt plays a Fazioli and the orchestra, led by Carlo Fabiano from the concertmaster’s chair, strikes a crisp balance between period practice and modern instruments – altogether a very pleasing sound. The three concertos, from Mozart’s early twenties, are the foundation of the cycle – a statement of intent.

The 9th, known as the Jeunehomme, is the only one to get regular play, but the other two are hardly inferior in ideas or spirit. Hewitt brings a gravitas to the concertos that recalls something of the approach of Arthur Schnabel, who was the first to revive them in modern times. It offers an invigorating contrast to the wanton athleticism and occasional flippancy of younger interpreters and suggests that Hewitt may be on the threshold of an adventure of real importance. I wonder which concerto’s next.