Clementi: Piano Concerto in C major; Franz Xaver Mozart: Piano Concertos – No 1 in C major, Op 14; No 2 in E flat major, Op 25

Reviewed on Tue 15 Nov, 2016

Franz Xaver Mozart's only orchestral compositions are two piano concertos; the first of which, written aged 18, is a tad ‘like father, like son’, since it is broadly indebted to Wolfgang’s later classical style.

Franz Xaver Mozart – born four months before his father’s death – led an itinerant life as 'Wolfgang, Jr.', piano virtuoso and composer of chamber music. His only orchestral compositions are two piano concertos; the first of which, written aged 18, is a tad ‘like father, like son’, since it is broadly indebted to Wolfgang’s later classical style. That said, keep things in perspective: I wouldn’t approach this recording expecting major discoveries that you can’t live without. The theme and variations central movement provides the concerto’s most substantive material, though each outer movement wears its charm lightly, and throughout the balance of soloist and orchestra is superbly realised. The Second Concerto is more individual by starting in uncharacteristically serious vein. The solo line packs florid imagination with an orchestral palette enlivened by clarinets that are deftly utilised. The two movements that follow allow tender expressivity to shine forth in streams of melody that hold momentary attention. Clementi’s sole surviving concerto makes an appropriate partner piece, with the opening movement’s virtuosity handled with dexterity by Howard Shelley and the Swiss St Gallen orchestra alike. As Richard Wigmore rightly suggests in his liner notes, the central movement’s “hushed solemnity anticipates Beethoven” and the “distinctly Haydnesque” presto finale is delivered with delight. The fine playing is matched by Hyperion’s production values.
–Evan Dickerson