There has been no hard-line dogma in the programming of “Mozart Unwrapped”. Putting together a year-long series of concerts devoted to a single composer is best achieved by embracing as many options as possible and Kings Place has been admirably open-minded in how it wants its Mozart to be performed and by whom. There is no lack of choice on offer over the year.
The regular audience being wooed at Kings Place, London’s newest concert venue, can only benefit. Having started out on New Year’s eve with one of the piano concertos played by specialists on period instruments – something not heard live often even these days – “Mozart Unwrapped” moved on last weekend to performances of the piano quartets steeped in tradition.
This was not simply a case of playing the music on traditional instruments. The four performers – highly respected Mozart pianist Imogen Cooper, together with violinist Katharine Gowers, viola player Krzysztof Chorzelski and cellist Adrian Brendel – set out with the aim of drawing the maximum expressive potential out of the music with no holding back to mimic the more limited scale of dynamics and tone-colour that Mozart would have heard on the instruments of his day.
The result was deeply involving. For a quartet who cannot perform together that often they achieved a near-ideal unanimity of purpose. Mozart wrote only two piano quartets, which are highly contrasted works – the E Flat relaxed and mellow, the G Minor tense and dramatic. They were composed in the middle of his outpouring of piano concertos in the mid-1780s and in these all-embracing performances felt as though they belonged very much in the same line. The questioning phrases in the middle of the E Flat’s opening movement reached out with unfettered yearning. The central turbulence of the G Minor’s first movement worked up an almost symphonic storm. In the excellent acoustics at Kings Place the music seemed to envelop the hall.
Finding a makeweight for the two quartets in recital can be tricky, but the Kings Place programme came up with the novelty of some of Mozart’s little-known arrangements of Bach. The three fugues with their assorted preludes, arranged for string trio, worked brilliantly. Played with the same unabashed involvement as the quartets, they seemed transformed from their Bach originals – a handful of treasurable Mozart rarities “unwrapped”. ()
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