Mozart’s first four original Piano Concertos (those that are the first four are adaptations of other composers’ pieces, while the not-included-here No.7 is the Concerto for Three Pianos, K242) are delivered handsomely by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. He doesn’t hang around in fast movements, enjoying their brilliance, but there is no rush for his playing is precise, crisp and (no pun intended) even-handed, if occasionally a little bullish and stabbed at – his isn’t precious Mozart – and sweetly lyrical in slow ones while avoiding sentimentality.
Joining in with the vitality and poetic curves (if slightly losing out in the recorded balance to Bavouzet’s closeness) are Manchester Camerata and Gábor Takács-Nagy, the conductor ensuring plenty of liberation for trumpets and timpani (where Mozart employs them) and he coaxes stylish and vigorous accounts of five Overtures, that are dotted around the discs, which are neither Figaro or Flute nor Cosí or Giovanni (see the cover for what is included – although that listed as that to Zaide, K344, is better-known as Symphony 32, K318, cast as an Italian Sinfonia – and, to at least one reader, yes, there are timpani).
Of the Concertos, each is pleasurable to various degrees – No.8 (K246) being a relative dud – if not of Mozart’s later greatness in this genre, which Bavouzet has already covered, although No.9 (K271) certainly points the way, and, exceptionally, the central movement of No.6 (K238) is sublime, for which Bavouzet and friends trade Manchester’s reverberant Stoller Hall for the gentle breezes of the Elysian Fields.
As for K271 itself (which Alfred Brendel chose to sign-off the Concerto part of his illustrious career), Bavouzet’s nippy if sparkling approach to the first movement tends to gloss over certain aspects of it, although depths are more-plumbed in the sacred slow movement (I did wish for quieter dynamics though, a greater feeling of inwardness) while the Finale is scintillating (or too flashy) whereas the interpolated Minuet is given in a come-hither manner; I succumbed.
Regarding cadenzas, Bavouzet, with one exception, uses those by Mozart; for the Finale of No.5 (K175) he writes his own, and it’s a humdinger. Chandos CHAN 20137 (2 CDs).