Monday, February 18, 2013

Gulda / Corea / Harnoncourt – Mozart Piano Concertos

   Friedrich Gulda as a pianist has had powerful and all-embracing artistic possibilities. He was inspired interpreter of great piano cycles both with orchestra and for piano solo. As successful performer of classical piano repertoire and jazz, he was playing concertos with symphony orchestra, jazz bands and artists of world music. On the ground of classical piano music he was recognized as great interpreter of 18th and early 19th century works, from Johann Sebastian Bach to Ludwig van Beethoven. He was also befriending with Chick Corea, one of best jazz pianists and composers who has also classical piano competences. They gave performances together and made some records. These projects became instantly famous as an example of crossover, although for most musicians it is obvious, there is no crossover if music is treated as an art.
   This was always strong tendency to connect jazz with concert music or to consider it later as a part of artistic music. From Gershwin writing Blue Rhapsody and Igor Stravinsky composing for Benny Goodman, who also recorded Mozart Clarinet Concerto, through music of the third stream, Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic, to Jacques Loussier, Modern Jazz Quartet and many others playing music of Bach, jazz was always part of modern professional music and professional musicians often reached out for jazz to find the missing part of musical activity. In last decades of 20th century many jazz musicians were performing Mozart’s works. His classical style was perfect for practicing regular forms so it was quite a considerable part of professional training and every musician had some experiences with it. But still it was the sensational event when Friedrich Gulda had invited Chick Corea to give joint performance of Mozart’s Double Piano Concerto.

Gulda / Corea / Harnoncourt are playing Mozart (1983)

   Recorded in Amsterdam Concertgebouw for Teldec label this album includes the perfect example of the jazz musician performing classical repertoire in Concerto for Two Pianos and the Coronation Concerto played by Friedrich Gulda. It was set in 1983, more than decade before the groundbreaking recordings of Mozart’s piano concertos made by Chick Corea with Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Bobby McFerrin in 1996 and by Keith Jarrett with Stuttgarter Kammerorchester and Dennis Russell Davies in 1999. In the moment it was astonishing idea to connect Friedrich Gulda and Chick Corea in one Mozart’s Double Concerto. And this duo of piano virtuosi was accompanied by one of best orchestras ever, the Concertgebouw Orchester Amsterdam conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who at the time was known almost exclusively as the master interpreter of an ancient music on original instruments. With so many stars only a pinch of the discipline and anything else is enough for successful recording. And this performance is much more than anything.
   An inspired and excellent performance of Concerto for Two Pianos E-flat Major KV 365 (316a) shows the power of vibrant cooperation. Bright, vivid phrases of Friedrich Gulda and gentle, calmly articulated answers of Chick Corea build the space for classical form. This is 10th Mozart’s concerto from 1779 and the next one is Concerto D Major KV 537 called Coronation Concerto from 1788. This is No. 26th in Mozart’s catalogue of piano concertos and one of his best works. In Teldec recording Friedrich Gulda builds supreme rendition of Mozart piano ideas with mild and virtuoso clearly sound of the orchestra. Intensity of emotions reminds early romantic music, although it is still classically balanced with musical expression and meanings, cozy in serene moments and rapidly serious in more intellectually fragments. Goulda’s piano is singing not only in Larghetto, but along the whole performance – despite the fact he is murmuring, what was quite normal and in good style on vinyl recordings era. Simplicity of these concertos comes with perfect performances and profound emotional narration.

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