The sixth disc in this highly acclaimed series combine two works in which Mozart's powers as an orchestrator come to the fore. Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, K 456, is sometimes referred to as one of the composers military concertos on the basis of the march-like main theme of the first movement. But more striking is the variety of ways that Mozart employs the various groups of instruments: strings, wind instruments and, of course, the piano. This aspect certainly didn't pass unnoticed by a listener as initiated as Mozart's father Leopold: in a letter to his daughter Nannerl he described how his enjoyment of the orchestral interplay had brought tears to his eyes.
Composed in 1786, the Piano Concertos Nos 24 in C minor and 25 in C major are regarded as two of Mozart's finest achievements in the genre. Both are large-scale works, with durations of more than 25 minutes each – the C major concerto is in fact one of the most expansive of all classical piano concertos, rivalling Beethoven’s fifth concerto. Their grandeur immediately made them popular fare in the concert hall – Mendelssohn, for instance, had No.24 in his repertoire through the 1820s and 1830s – and new recordings appear regularly. It is nevertheless relatively rare to hear them performed on original instruments and with orchestral forces corresponding to what Mozart himself would have been familiar with.
Carl Maria von Weber wrote music that has been admired by composers as diverse as Schumann, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky. But in his lifetime he was also recognised as one of the finest pianists of the period, with an exceptional technique and a brilliant gift for improvisation.
Carl Maria von Weber wrote music that has been admired by composers as diverse as Schumann, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky. But in his lifetime he was also recognised as one of the finest pianists of the period, with an exceptional technique and a brilliant gift for improvisation. Especially during the 1810s he toured extensively, and like other composer-pianists he wrote works to use as his personal calling cards, among them the two piano concertos recorded here. They were both composed in 1811-12, but while the First Concerto takes Mozart's concertos as its model, Piano Concerto No. 2 looks towards Beethoven.
With stiff competition from Norrington on EMI and Östman on L’Oiseau-Lyre, Gardiner’s Magic Flute enters the period instrument stakes somewhat belatedly. It offers no major musicological revelations – no reinstated numbers or serious reorderings that often come with period Mozart these days. Its only textual novelties are the trumpets and drums at the start of Act I, where in accordance with Mozart’s original manuscript Tamino is pursued by a lion rather than a snake, and a selection of numbers, presented as an appendix, sung to the alternative texts given in the first printed score.