Dominy Clements
MusicWeb International
April 2021

This delightful recording brings us both of Mozart’s well-known multi-hand piano concertos, as well as a piece that has only survived as an unfinished fragment, completed here by Tomer Lev, a member of the MultiPiano Ensemble.

The Concerto for Three Pianos, K242 was composed for the wealthy Lodron family, leading patrons of the arts in Salzburg at the time. Madame Lodron and her two daughters were brought together for their own concerto, with Mozart tailoring the parts to each of their technical abilities. This is light-textured music, the pianos as often conversing with each other rather than playing all at once. The central Adagio is a highlight of this concerto, Timer Lev in his booklet notes reminding us that the high and soft sonorities of the pianos might be an imitation of the glass harmonica, an instrument popular in the elegant courts of the day.

The Larghetto and Allegro is obscure in origin, but probably a product of Mozart’s early days in Vienna, where he set himself up as a freelance musician in 1781. Operatic character is a strong feature of the piece, from the arioso-like introduction to the witty Allegro that follows. Lev is by no means the first to attempt a completion of this piece but is the first to add an orchestra, taking the concertante elements of the two-keyboard original as a short score intended for orchestration. This works very well indeed, and while there might be some argument about ‘would Mozart have done this or that’, this is an entirely enjoyable piece in its own right, 'and, one hopes, offers a welcome addition to the repertoire for two pianos and orchestra.'

The Concerto for Two Pianos, K356 seems most likely to have been written by Mozart for himself and his sister Nannerl, the more virtuoso nature of the solo parts certainly beyond that found in the ‘Lodron’ concerto. Lev points out similarities in approach to the lovely Sinfonia concertante, K364 which preceded this work, Mozart often having the second instrument answer the first an octave lower, as with the violin and viola in K364. As with all of the performances here there is a palpable sense of enjoyment from all of the players. The English Chamber Orchestra is well seasoned in this repertoire, and accompanies with positive character and sublime phrasing, and the recorded balance is not too heavily in favour of the pianos above the orchestra.

There have been several recordings made of the two concertos presented here but, shopping around, there aren’t that many that are easily available these days. The main competition seems to come from Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu on Sony Classical, also with the English Chamber Orchestra. This version has the ‘Lodron’ concerto in an arrangement for two pianos rather than three, and while this makes little difference musically it is nice to hear the interaction of the full trio on this superbly produced Hyperion recording. Perahia and Lupu are excellent of course, and with the orchestra sounding larger-scale this is a more extrovert reflection of the music than from the MultiPiano Ensemble. I have to say I like both just about equally, with Perahia/Lupu being more exciting, but the MultiPianos getting more into the inner life of each work. Either way, this release from Hyperion can stand comparison with any alternative, and is therefore a highly desirable prospect indeed.