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MOZART Coronation Concerto K537

Concerto for two pianos K365* 

Rondos for piano and orchestra K382 & 386

Carl Seeman and Andor Foldes* (pianos)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Fritz Lehmann (conductor)DG MONO 474 611-2
TPT: 1:17:56

 reviewed by Neville Cohn


Some of the most enterprising and fascinating compilations on Australia-generated compact discs can be found on the MOVE label. The intriguingly titled ensemble, Woof!, offers what is claimed as the first ever complete recording of Percy Grainger’s Tuneful Percussion. Played on authentic instruments, which include the composer’s own bells and marimba, this compilation – 16 tracks on MD 3222 – includes a number of works never placed on record before.Stereo buffs, who avoid listening to anything that isn’t preserved by state-of-the-art recording equipment, will probably not deign to expose their ears to this 1953 recording – and mono at that. It’s their loss.Carl Seeman and Andor Foldes are not nearly as well known now as they were in their heyday. Foldes is particularly remembered for his trailblazing work in bringing the piano music of Bartok to a wide international audience in the 1950s – and Seeman was a pianist of distinction in the standard classical repertoire.In this all-Mozart compilation, the two feature as soloists in the Concerto for two pianos, K365; it’s music – and music making – of near-untrammelled delight. True, recorded sound borders on the tinny at times, and elsewhere the instruments remind one more of fortepianos than modern concert grands.

But the clarity and fluency of the playing make this a performance to cherish. Listen to the precision with which the two synchronise their trills and even the most rapid passagework. At the same time, there is nothing in the least mechanical or rigid about the playing. On the contrary, it has a winning freshness and vitality, a sense of spontaneity. And at its most chromatic, the performances border on the euphoric but invariably within the line and contour of the 18th century. Certainly, the inherent joyousness of much of the writing is splendidly evoked.

I very much admired, too, the quality of string playing in the introduction to the Coronation Concerto. With its rhythmic bite and graceful strength, it comes across as Mozartean playing par excellence. And Seeman’s performance is a joy to listen to, giving, as it does, point and meaning to what in lesser hands could so easily sound like vacuous note spinning.

Recorded sound tends to dryness but there are many compensations, not least the integrity of Seeman’s playing with its trademark clarity. There is no hint here of the sort of sentimentality favoured by some and which can so easily bring an unwanted cloying, honeyed quality to the music.

Fritz Lehmann takes the BPO through exemplary accompaniments to the concertos – and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in Seeman’s account of the Rondos, K 382 and K 386. These charming pieces seldom figure on concert programs but they are certainly worth listening to, especially, as here, when given such stylish treatment.

© November 2003