MOZART: Piano Concerto in E flat, K 482; Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K 546; Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K364
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
Norbert Brainin (violin) Pieter Schidlof (viola)
English Chamber Orchestra BENJAMIN BRITTEN (conductor)
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Mozart playing at a very much higher level is available on a BBC CD with, for much of the time, a transcendentally fine reading of the Sinfonia Concertante K364 with, as soloists, Norbert Brainin (violin) and Peter Schidlof (viola) (both members of the legendary Amadeus Quartet). There is a quite wonderful confluence of musical gifts in this performance, given at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1967. Schidlof’s warm-toned, immaculately pitched line – it sings with a voice that almost mesmerisies the listener – and Brainin’s intensely musical response to the score (notwithstanding an occasional, fleeting weakening of concentration) make this a recording to remember. The sunny, optimistic mood of the finale is unambiguously evoked. Throughout, the English Chamber Orchestra, as if drawing inspiration from its conductor Benjamin Britten and the two stellar soloists, are almost beyond reproach. The introduction to the work is particularly well paced; the horns bringh a most effective air of pomp to the proceedings. And in the Adagio and Fugue in C minor K546, the ECO achieves the nth degree in solemnity in the former – and steers a rivettingly dramatic course through the Fugue.
If the Piano Concerto in E flat, K482 is less rewarding listening, it is not in any way due to Richter’s solo playing, which is masterly. Rather, it is because the piano sounds too distant; it needs significantly greater presence to do the performance justice. But although less than satisfactory in this sense, there is still much to admire in the recording, not least the limpid, easeful playing of the ECO strings and Richter’s account of Benjamin Britten’s astonishingly original cadenzas written specially for the soloist.