One of the giants of the historically informed performance world needs little introduction; nor indeed his sympathy to Mozart’s oeuvre as already demonstrated in recordings of the three da Ponte operas that have met with wide acclaim and many awards for their closely observed intimacy, their sense of fun and drama and their well-chosen casts, at one with Kuijken’s vision of these jewels of human and music drama.
In the 1830s, Schott publishers commissioned Johann Nepomuk Hummel to make arrangements of Mozart’s orchestral works for piano, flute, violin and cello to help facilitate performances in a domestic setting.
One hates to admit it, but at this point in his career, pianist Maurizio Pollini is no longer a Mozart player. Although a supreme virtuoso, a passionate intellectual, and a consummate artist, Pollini has grown too brilliant, too intense, and too calculating for Mozart. Pollini's tone is crystalline, his textures are transparent and his tempos are perfect in this breathtaking 2005 recording of the G major and C major piano concertos, but it all seems too cold and too objective. Although he is also directing the Wiener Philharmoniker from the piano, this doesn't seem to encumber Pollini's virtuosity in any way; indeed, he appears to enjoy the challenge, audibly coaxing more force from the musicians' playing.
The contents of the EMI box are too numerous to list but all the sonatas, variations, and most short pieces are here: absent is the London Sketchbook, which is trite juvenalia.
The Haffner Serenade in D major was written in 1776 for Marie Elizabeth Haffner's wedding celebration and was commissioned by her brother Sigmund, later the recipient of the Haffner Symphony. Though this composition has elements of Mozart's symphonic style – particularly in its dramatic first and last movements, the grand Menuettos, and the sixth movement Andante – it is cast in eight movements of diverse character and has a casual ambience that belongs to the serenade. The violin solos in the second, third, and fourth movements lend a concertante air to this work, though they have a private quality unlike the bravura displays of the concerto style…
Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major for violin, cello, oboe, and bassoon, Hob. 1/105, is among his most recorded works, and among his most utterly joyful. But it has rarely reached the heights of ebullience achieved in this historical-instrument reading by the small British ensemble Arcangelo and its conductor, Jonathan Cohen. The list of things to be enthusiastic about is long, but it begins with the differentiation of the instruments in the solo passages, with the period oboe and bassoon of Alfredo Bernardini and Peter Whelan, respectively, having the depth of texture to stand up to the brilliant Stradivarius violin and Guarneri cello of Ilya Gringolts (a renowned soloist in his own right) and Nicolas Altstaedt.