Another day, another door opens on our Classical Advent Calendar. Today, we celebrate the master.
Mozart’s D-minor piano concerto seems an odd choice for a ‘box of delights’.
Although it’s arguably his most famous piano concerto, its opening movement is full of the gathering storm clouds that signal the beginning of Mozart’s descent into relative poverty. This particular recording, though, is full of sparkling surprises that cause the listener to catch themselves with disbelief at first hearing. Otakar Trhlík was hardly a major name in conducting circles, and the Philharmonia Cassovia is not an orchestra on everyone’s lips (although they have a modest Naxos recording catalogue); the concerto, though, is interesting for its soloist. The Czech-born pianist, conductor and composer Peter Breiner achieved fame for his cross-over arrangements; at home as much with a dance band as with a symphony orchestra, he made Baroque arrangements of Beatles and Elvis Presley tracks, and was, for a while, a television presenter.
Breiner and Trhlík take the concerto perhaps a little fast for my taste, and there’s just a suggestion (certainly in the final movement) that they might be going for a world speed record (at times it’s all a bit thrown away). But it’s the genius that Breiner brings to the cadenzas that is the joy here. There are three in total – one in the first movement, and two in the third movement (featured here). Breiner brings jazz to the party – some stride piano, a touch of blues, even some boogie-woogie – and it’s when you listen to these outrageously styled cadenzas, you realise that jazz, with its improvisatory background, is the perfect medium for the form: in amidst the rhythm and blue notes, Mozart’s basic melodic and harmonic structure are still there.
For those who want to listen to the cadenzas without the rest, they can be found at 2:14 and 6:01.