Among the most widely performed of Mozart’s piano concertos for a good half century after its composition in 1785, the Concerto No.20 in D minor still assumes a commanding place in the concert hall.
Among its early devotees was Beethoven, who performed the work at a benefit concert for Mozart’s widow in March 1795 and who may well have found much to admire in the work’s brooding opening, characterized by syncopations and later punctuated by more aggressive outbursts; in his informative liner notes, the Mozart scholar John Irving goes so far as to call it ‘Mozart’s grittiest concerto’.
Six years after the D minor concerto, in January 1791, the composer completed the Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat major, K595, giving the first performance of it two months later. This was to be his last public appearance as a soloist, and the concerto has sometimes been considered as a work in which the typical sparkle of Mozart’s virtuosity is tempered by resignation, as if the composer were already aware of his imminent demise. Such an interpretation is contradicted by a close study of the autograph manuscript, however: the concerto appears to have been begun two full years before it was completed.
Its language is nevertheless more introverted than most of Mozart’s works in the genre: he seems to be aiming for a sublime delicacy of expression rarely attempted elsewhere in his concerto output.
These two exceptional works are here performed by Ronald Brautigam and Die Kölner Akademie, on their fifth disc of Mozart’s concertos – an ongoing series which has been described as ‘a lucky break and a true delight’ in the German magazine Piano News.
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