Mozart: Divertimento in F–Mozart the String Quarters, Hagan Quartett on DG
Between writing this and last month’s Only the Music, something momentous happened: I attended my first live concert in six months. The artists were the French Quatuor Modigliani, the occasion a socially distanced concert in Bremen’s 1400-seat Die Glocke Grosser Saal, occupied by a mere 200 of us. It was indescribably moving, not least for the strange experience of hearing a public concert couched in the intimacy of a rehearsal acoustic-because of course, music reverberates around a near-empty large space in an entirely different way than it does in a fully peopled one.
This month’s playlist-opening recording fondly remembers that evening by way of the serenely sunny piece with which Quatuor Modigliani began their programme: Mozart’s serene Divertimento in F, K138. Quatuor Modigliani haven’t yet recorded the entire work themselves (although you can hear its finale on their brilliant 2019 Portraits album of shorts), so I’ve reached for the Hagen Quartett’s fine 1990 reading instead.
Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 19 & 27, Rondo K 386–Francesco Piemontesi on Linn
Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Andrew Manze are a proven dream team when it comes to Mozart’s piano concertos. For starters, the SCO themselves are long celebrated as Mozart interpreters. Their first Mozart partnership with Piemontesi was back in 2011, which led to a well-received 2017 recording of concertos Nos 25 and 26, so it should come asno surprise that their latest collaboration is wonderful stuff.
Pairing sunny No 19 with the by turns mellow and magisterial No 27 (Mozart’s last concerto), plus the nine-minute Rondo in A major K386, reconstructed in 1989 by the SCO’s Conductor Laureate Sir Charles Mackerras, it presents readings which, in overall ensemble terms, are replete with limpid textures, exquisite delicacy, and exactly the kind of easy, natural lyricism Mozart’s music’s demands, but which is so difficult to achieve. There’s a beautifully conversational, improvisatory feel to Piemontesi’s lines, with the notes both crisply articulated and softly haloed, set off even further by the ravishingly light and luminescent Steinway he’s on. The Linn engineering is another draw for its warmth and definition. For Only the Music, I’ve picked out Piano Concerto No 27.
Ohrwurm–Tabea Debus on Delphia
Rising recorder player Tabea Debus’s debut on Delphian is as ear-catching as its Ohrwurm or “Earworm” title is eye-catching-proving yet again why she’s rightly being credited with changing public perception of the recorder. Repertoire-wise, it spans the gamut from the 14th to the 21st centuries, with each of its 20 pieces ticking the memory-lodging requirement in its own way,whether through construction or sheer melodic charm. It’s equally gamut-spanning when it comes to the range of tones and colours served up by Debus herself on her array of Renaissance and Baroque recorders.
My selection for this playlist begins with the fluidly dancing, circling Ciaconna after Antonio Bertali (1605-1669), Tarquinio Merula (1595-1665) and Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), for which Debus is joined by gamba player Jonathan Rees and lutenist Alex McCartney. Next up is Caffeine for solo recorder by modern-day composer Freya Waley-Cohen, whose aurally discombobulating leaping figures are rooted in the Baroque rondo structure, with its constantly recurring melody, and finally, the low-voiced lyricism of the anonymous Lamento di Tristano, found in a manuscript owned by the Florentine Medici family, and representing the moment in history where the aural tradition of folk music met with the new practice of music publishing.
Charles Ives Complete Symphonies–Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel on DG
“It was, in its every gesture, vibrantly, rapturously, outrageously American”, said the Los Angeles Times back in February, of Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic’s Walt Disney Hall performance of Charles Ives’s First Symphony–a work completed in 1908,but not premiered until 1953. Happily for the rest of us, not only was DG live-recording both this and that month’s other highly acclaimed performances of Ives’s remaining three symphonies(all of which formed part of the orchestra’s Ives-Dvořák festival), but they’ve also translated wonderfully onto “disc”,thanks both to the riveting vigour, beauty and sparkle of the actual readings, and to DG’s superb capturing of the orchestra’s rich-toned sheen and suave nimbleness.This is a fabulous addition to the recordings catalogue, perhaps especially so for non-US listeners given that Ives’s quirkily visionary,European-tradition-meets-America symphonies are rather lesser-heard on concert platforms on this side of the pond. It’s the First Symphony I’ve given you here, with its sublimely peaceful second movement Adagio and ebullient finale complete with marching band.
Playlist available on
Note: Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 19 & 27, Rondo K 386–Francesco Piemontesi (Linn) is unavailable on TIDAL or Qobuz and therefore does not appear on the playlist