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Guy Berger

Mozart Complete Piano Concertos: Gardiner/Bilson

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I'm planning to pick up my first complete set of Mozart piano concertos, and the choice seems to boil to either Gardiner conducting the English Baroque Soloists with Malcolm Bilson on fortepiano or a modern instruments instrument recording of the English Chamber Orchestra with Murray Perahia on piano.

Both boxes are comparably priced (+/-$50) and get glowing reviews in most places I've checked. The Bilson box includes the concertos for 2 and 3 pianos; the Perahia box includes two rondos but none of the multipiano concertos. I like period instrument performances of late 18th century music quite a bit -- I have the Pinnock versions of Haydn's "Sturm und Drang" and Mozart's symphonies. The presence of the multipiano concertos is an additional plus -- I'm less interested in the rondos. OTOH I'm wary of the fortepiano, don't have a bias against tasteful modern instrument recordings (ie smaller ensembles, orchestration that isn't overly lush, avoidance of romantic mannerisms), and am not interested in a "radical" or weird-sounding HIP performance.

Recommendations?

Guy

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I have to warn you I am biased as a lover of historic keyboard instruments and gut strings .....

For me the best deal as a complete package is Jos van Immerseel's 10 CD box with his own orchestra Anima Eterna (which is 'Immerseel' - eternal soul - in Latin) - they play like one, not soloist opposed to ensemble, lively without extremes. Everyone I played this to has loved it.

It is available on Channel Classics.

It has concertos # 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 & 28.

I appreciate Bilson very much but thought Gardiner's conception not as convincing - same with his take on the Beethoven Concertos with Robert Levin.

Levin did most Mozart concertos with Hogwood on Decca, but they're all single CDs and OOP - the label cancelled the project after 3/4 of the package. His recording of concertos 1 - 4 (on harpsichord) is the perfect gap filler for then Immerseel package. He plays improvised embellishments in the repeat passages.

A beautiful recording of the concertos KV 107 was made by Pierre Hantai and le Concert Francais on Opus 111 (harpsichord again, excellent!).

Immerseel has the best piano of them all - a Viennese style fortepiano by Christopher Clarke that has been called the Rolls Royce of fortepianos by envying colleagues. A truly marvellous instrument - there is a great Mozart/Haydn solo piano disc with it on Globe which serves as a perfect appetizer for historic pianos.

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I have the Perahia Mozart piano concerto set and like it a lot. I also have the separate disc of Perahia, Radu Lupu, and the ECO playing Mozart's multiple piano concertos. I also have--and like very much--Perahia's complete Beethoven piano concerto set with Haitink conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. FWIW, I also have both Pinnock symphony boxes (Haydn and Mozart) that you have, and also like them (sounds like I'm easy to please :P ).

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I have to warn you I am biased as a lover of historic keyboard instruments and gut strings .....

For me the best deal as a complete package is Jos van Immerseel's 10 CD box with his own orchestra Anima Eterna (which is 'Immerseel' - eternal soul - in Latin) - they play like one, not soloist opposed to ensemble, lively without extremes. Everyone I played this to has loved it.

It is available on Channel Classics.

It has concertos # 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 & 28.

 

I appreciate Bilson very much but thought Gardiner's conception not as convincing - same with his take on the Beethoven Concertos with Robert Levin.

Levin did most Mozart concertos with Hogwood on Decca, but they're all single CDs and OOP - the label cancelled the project after 3/4 of the package. His recording of concertos 1 - 4 (on harpsichord) is the perfect gap filler for then Immerseel package. He plays improvised embellishments in the repeat passages.

A beautiful recording of the concertos KV 107 was made by Pierre Hantai and le Concert Francais on Opus 111 (harpsichord again, excellent!).

Immerseel has the best piano of them all -  a Viennese style fortepiano by Christopher Clarke that has been called the Rolls Royce of fortepianos by envying colleagues. A truly marvellous instrument - there is a great Mozart/Haydn solo piano disc with it on Globe which serves as a perfect appetizer for historic pianos.

That Immerseel traversal sounds like something worth checking out. Thanks for the recommendation.

I didn't know that the Levin/Hogwoods were OOP. I have the one with Concertos No. 15 and No. 26, played on a fortepiano once owned by Mozart himself, and I quite like it. The improvisations are interesting and well done, giving a hint of what period performances might have been like.

I heard Levin interviewed at length on a local radio show a number of years ago and he was quite erudite and witty, yet clear and communicative as well.

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I have to warn you I am biased as a lover of historic keyboard instruments and gut strings .....

For me the best deal as a complete package is Jos van Immerseel's 10 CD box with his own orchestra Anima Eterna (which is 'Immerseel' - eternal soul - in Latin) - they play like one, not soloist opposed to ensemble, lively without extremes. Everyone I played this to has loved it.

Hmmm... thanks for the rec but it's a bit pricy at $95...

Guy

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I have to warn you I am biased as a lover of historic keyboard instruments and gut strings .....

For me the best deal as a complete package is Jos van Immerseel's 10 CD box with his own orchestra Anima Eterna (which is 'Immerseel' - eternal soul - in Latin) - they play like one, not soloist opposed to ensemble, lively without extremes. Everyone I played this to has loved it.

Hmmm... thanks for the rec but it's a bit pricy at $95...

Guy

$10.50 a disc doesn't sound that steep to me.

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[Hmmm... thanks for the rec but it's a bit pricy at $95...

$10.50 a disc doesn't sound that steep to me.

Relative to $5.50 a disc...

Guy

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[Hmmm... thanks for the rec but it's a bit pricy at $95...

$10.50 a disc doesn't sound that steep to me.

Relative to $5.50 a disc...

Guy

I hear you!

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I have both sets. I would recommend the set by Murray Perahia. My bias is toward the sound of the more modern piano. I enjoy hearing the fortepiano once in a while just for something a bit different, but the fullness and greater presence of the modern piano is one that I definitely prefer.

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I have to warn you I am biased as a lover of historic keyboard instruments and gut strings .....

For me the best deal as a complete package is Jos van Immerseel's 10 CD box with his own orchestra Anima Eterna (which is 'Immerseel' - eternal soul - in Latin) - they play like one, not soloist opposed to ensemble, lively without extremes. Everyone I played this to has loved it.

Hmmm... thanks for the rec but it's a bit pricy at $95...

Guy

I didn't know they readjusted the retail price for this - I bought it for DM 50 many years ago, and it was available that cheap for some time.

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I ended up getting the Gardiner/Bilson set. The fortepiano is an interesting sound but I wish it wasn't so quiet relative to the orchestra.

Guy

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I ended up getting the Gardiner/Bilson set. The fortepiano is an interesting sound but I wish it wasn't so quiet relative to the orchestra.

Guy

Yes, but you get Bilson's spontaneity in the deal.

Perahia is good, but a little staid. You made the right choice. (Sorry I didn't see the thread earlier.)

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I ended up getting the Gardiner/Bilson set. The fortepiano is an interesting sound but I wish it wasn't so quiet relative to the orchestra.

That's exactly the problem that made Mozart perform some of his late piano concertos on harpsichord in Vienna: The big harpsichords were considerably louder than the early fortepianos. I have a (OOP) recording of some on a harpsichord played by Siegbert Rampe, and it is much more convincing than one might think.

It's a long time since I listened to the Gardiner/Bilson recording: How many strings does Gradiner employ. If the string section is too large, the piano player has trouble to make himself heard. Immerseel solved this problem by using a very clear sounding newly built piano (a Walter copy by Christopher Clarke) and a smaller string section. Considering that even Beethoven premiered his 4th piano concerto with only one player per part in the string section (!) and Czerny complained to him when he had to perform the 5th concerto in Vienna's biggest concert hall this might be the best solution: Use a smaller string section in a smaller concert hall.

I remember Bilson playing excellently, however.

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I ended up getting the Gardiner/Bilson set. The fortepiano is an interesting sound but I wish it wasn't so quiet relative to the orchestra.

For some nice Mozart on fortepiano that's not overpowered by an orchestra, I strongly recommend these 2 discs of piano trios by the Mozartean Players, an original instrument (including fortepiano) trio from NY, IIRC:

B00005UOND.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgB00006I498.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

These are on the Classical Express label of Harmonia Mundi, and are available from Amazon for only $6.98 each. Very well recorded fortepiano.

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The Mozartean Players are Steven Lubin's ensemble. He's great. I have those two trios, and the quartets, as well as two discs of piano concertos on Arabesque which are among the best Mozart Concerto recordings I have, but seem to be oop.

B000000T6F.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpgB000000T9Z.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg The first has # 12 & 15, the second has # 20 & 23.

This here seems to be a new recording - it's a must for me!

B0009RYGFY.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

Edited by mikeweil

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While we're at it: Decca has reissued Lubin's recordings of the Beethoven piano concertos with Christopher Hogwood as well as his three solo sonatas in one box set for ca. $ 20.00 on 3 CDs - nothing to complain about - this is a very good recording.

B000E0LB8G.03.LZZZZZZZ.jpg

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Mike, I've just looked all over the internet for that Beethoven box and can't find it anywhere. Is it still in print?

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Mike, I've just looked all over the internet for that Beethoven box and can't find it anywhere. Is it still in print?

Newly reissued - you may have to wait a while for it to actually appear...

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Yes - amazon.de has it, release date was February 14.

amazon.co.uk has a release date of March 13, 2006.

But as of now no trace of it on amazon.com.

Edited by mikeweil

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Back to Mozart: I compared three recordings of my favourite Mozart piano concerto, # 20 in D minor KV 466 - Lubin / Mozartean Players; Levin / Hogwood, AAM; Immerseel / Anima Eterna.

All three are great and play excellent cadenzas, but the Lubin is perhaps the most poetic, and the orchestral colours are the most striking. It's a shame his first two Mozart concerto discs are oop.

What kind of piano does Bilson use, and how many strings are there. The above all use Walter fortepiano copies.

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What kind of piano does Bilson use, and how many strings are there. The above all use Walter fortepiano copies.

"MOZART'S FORTEPIANO

This instrument was built in the early 1780s by the Viennese keyboard-instrument maker Anton Walter and purchased by Mozart in 1784. Malcolm Bilson plays on a copy of the instrument for most of the concertos on the present series of recordings."

The strings are 6/6/4/4/2, except in concertos 22-27 (8/6/4/4/2)

Edited by Guy

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Thanks! I will compare with the other recordings I have and post later.

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Yeah, Christian Zacharias is great! If a modern piano, then him. I saw a long interview with him on tv - he really knows what he's doing and loves the music. He's the only pianist whose take on Domenico Scarlatti appeals to me. If there weren't any Mozart recordings on historic pianos, he'd be my choice. His Schumann concerto recording is great, too.

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i'm with Mike, tho' i don't have the Immerseel set, alas.

A closer look at the Immerseel box revealed that it was probably exclusive to the German market on the occasion of the 1991 anniversary. The booklet has only German text ..... Sorry that it wasn't available in the US at that bargain price - it's really a good complete set.

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Andreas Staier has done two discs of Mozart ctos for Teldec, not sure how they've fared in the collapse of Warner Classics... Staier's Haydn ctos on Harmonia Mundi w/Gottfried von der Goltz-- i think-- is also superb...

So you can recomend the Haydn disc Staier did? - I skipped this one for some reason.

Of the Mozart concertos with Staier, both, one with concertos # 9 & 17, the other with # 18 & 19, seem to be in print. They're both very good. But as I stated elsewhere, I like Staier much better live, as he takes more chances on stage.

B00004Y31B.03.LZZZZZZZ.jpg

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