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CLASSICAL  August 2004

CLASSICAL August 2004

Subject:

Short Review - Franz Xaver Mozart Piano Concertos

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 22 Aug 2004 18:39:34 +0000

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   Franz Xaver Mozart (1791-1844)
             Piano Concertos

Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 14 (1805)
Concerto No. 2 in E sharp major, Op. 25 (1818)
Henri Sigfridsson, piano
International New Symphony Orchestra (INSO) Lemberg
Gunhard Mattes, conductor
Recorded July 2003
Novalis 150 175-2 [51:00]

DNA Connections: Do the offspring of famous composers tend to have great
musical abilities and inspiration?  Usually not, but Franz Xaver Mozart goes
against the general rule.  To be honest, although I knew that Franz Xaver
was Wolfgang's son, I had no idea that his music is so wonderful.  However,
this Novalis disc has definitely changed my views.

History: Franz Xaver was only four months old when his father died, so he
was unable to be taught by the master.  Yet, his mother Constanze insured
that he received excellent musical training starting at two years of age.
Teachers of the young Mozart included Hummel, Haydn, and even the suspicious
Antonio Salieri.  Franz Xaver had a successful musical career and was
particularly valued as a pedagogue.  Still, his reputation never came close
to approaching that of his father, and his music has been devalued up to
present time.

What's His Music Like?: At least concerning the two programmed concertos on
the Novalis disc, the music sounds very much like his father's.  It flows
like silk, phrasing is very similar, the supply of melodic material is
constant, and the aesthetic is exactly the same.  If someone told me that
these were two lost concertos of Wolfgang, I wouldn't even raise my
exquisitely arched eyebrows.

Performances: The obscurity of Franz Xaver's music is matched by that of
the INSO Lemberg, the conductor Gunhard Mattes, and the pianist Henri
Sigfridsson.  Obscurity aside, these performances are exceptional in every
respect.  The playing is supple, crisp, and exuberant.  Especially rewarding
is the performance of Sigridsson who gives these works the silky and fluid
treatment so necessary.

The Piano Concertos - Both concertos are of the upbeat variety, although the
1st Movement of Opus 25 is certainly of a more serious nature than its
counterpart of Opus 14.  The slow inner movements possess an abundant
poignancy, although they do not plumb the depths of the human condition.

Soundstage: Excellent with ample depth and clarity.

Alternatives: There is one other recording that pairs the two piano
concertos - a Koch Schwann disc with Ronald Bader conducting the Cologne
Radio, Klaus Hellwig on piano. These performances are fine, although I
prefer Mattes and company for their lighter and more vivacious treatment.
However, these distinctions might be moot, as it appears that the Koch
Schwann disc from the early 1990's is not currently in print.

Don's Conclusions: Anyone who enjoys Wolfgang's piano concertos or the
concertos of Hummel and Spohr is sure to eat up the music of Franz Xaver.
It's almost as if his dad has come back to life.  Of course, the son is not
the equal of his father, but this is music for pure enjoyment and succeeds
tremendously on that level.  I find the disc essential for those who love
the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and/or the bridge between the classical
and romantic eras.

Don Satz
[log in to unmask]

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