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Authoritative guest direction by renowned English conductor/scholar, Nicholas McGegan, is noteworthy throughout the concert. McGegan -- a renowned authority on Baroque and Classical repertoire, in constant demand worldwide -- is widely regarded as nonpareil in Mozart researches and performance.
Just as surely, in the 24th Piano Concerto and Mozart Requiem, American pianist-improviser-lecturer, Robert Levin (60) throws fresh light on both works; especially the former commonly-held sacrosanct manuscript
[listen -- track 2, 0:00-1:27].
Richard Taruskin of The New York Times describes Levin (equally skilled on the fortepiano and modern piano) as, 'able to improvise exciting and absorbing cadenzas, ready to permute Mozart's ideas with stylish embellishments, generous with whimsical quotes and enjoyably astonishing tricks to keep listeners alive and alert'.
Levin says 'Mozart's performances were designed to display his talents as improviser, pianist and composer (that is the order his contemporaries assigned to his gifts). His piano concertos contain contrived chasms -- pauses he bridged with impulsive audacity -- the so-called cadenzas and lead-ins. Further, Mozart left many passages in sketched or schematic form, relying on the whims of live performance to "recreate" specific expressive content anew at each performance.'
'We possess a significant number of embellished versions of Mozart from him and his circle, showing unmistakably the type and amount of ornamentation he expected. In light of this evidence it must be said that many of today's performances contain passages executed in a manner Mozart would have considered unacceptably incomplete.'
The McGegan / Levin performing mode is unfailingly decisive and uplifting -- the andantes have an elegant beauty without effeminate gentility while allegros display forthright, unmannered confidence. Levin's cadenzas, improvised for the occasion, prove architecturally sound and clasically convincing. Invigorating music-making to be sure.
Copyright © 18 September 2007
Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand