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» January 2013
Alessio Bax plays Mozart
Piano Concertos Nos. 24 & 27Alessio Bax
A stunning soloist follows on from his 2012 Brahms release with a new concerto recording of piano concertos K.491 and K.595 by Mozart, performed with the Southbank Sinfonia under Simon Over. The Italian-born pianist Alessio Bax is a first-prize winner at the Leeds and Hamamatsu international piano competitions and a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient.
What people are saying
"… Bax and the Southbank Sinfonia bring a new lease of life to these concertos, making the most of the clean lines as well as the cheekier moments hidden within the score … The result is youthful, beautiful music, peppered with Mozart's trademark tunes." Classic FM, Connoisseur's Choice Recording, March 2013
"Leeds International Competition winner Alessio Bax here extends his repute as a performer of gossamer brilliance with a Mozart disc (rec. 7-8 June 2012) dear to his own heart." Audiophile Audition, March 2013
Alessio Bax piano
Simon Over conductor
Release date: 14th Jan 2012
Order code: SIGCD321
|1.||Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K.491: I. Allegro||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||13.19|
|2.||Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K.491: II. Larghetto||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||7.16|
|3.||Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K.491: III. Allegretto||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||8.50|
|4.||Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K.595: I. Allegro||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||14.08|
|5.||Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K.595: II. Larghetto||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||8.40|
|6.||Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K.595: III. Allegro||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||8.53|
|7.||8 Solo Variations on Sarti's 'Come un agnello', K.460: Thema||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||0.43|
|8.||8 Solo Variations on Sarti's 'Come un agnello', K.460: Variation 1||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||0.41|
|9.||8 Solo Variations on Sarti's 'Come un agnello', K.460: Variation 2||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||0.56|
|10.||8 Solo Variations on Sarti's 'Come un agnello', K.460: Variation 3||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||0.41|
|11.||8 Solo Variations on Sarti's 'Come un agnello', K.460: Variation 4||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||0.53|
|12.||8 Solo Variations on Sarti's 'Come un agnello', K.460: Variation 5||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||0.45|
|13.||8 Solo Variations on Sarti's 'Come un agnello', K.460: Variation 6||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||0.41|
|14.||8 Solo Variations on Sarti's 'Come un agnello', K.460: Variation 7||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||2.22|
|15.||8 Solo Variations on Sarti's 'Come un agnello', K.460: Variation 8||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart||4.30|
[Cliff Eisen]: On the opening of the B flat Piano Concerto K595, “ One of the things that Bax does that I thoroughly approve of and I like very much, is that he reduces the orchestra, there seems to be evidence that when Mozart performed his orchestras the full orchestra played only during the big ritornellos and orchestral sections, and during the solo sections the orchestra reduced to a single desk, and that creates a certain timbral contrast that’s very attractive, and Bax does do that in this recording......So you get a nice colouristic touch that is also sanctioned by performance practice as far as we know it”.
BBC Radio 3 CD Review, Cliff Eisen
Did Joseph II say to Mozart 'There are simply too many notes'? Or was this dramatic licence from Peter Schaffer? Either way, unenterprising performances give that impression. Alesssio Bax feels differently. From the first movement of K491, passagework is shaped and graded never to sound 'notey'. Ditto his apposite cadenza. And sombre hues predominate, beginning with the orchestral framework, violins separated, set by Simon Over, bassoons defined but brass and timpani a trace subdued. Passions are temperate rather than fiery. Lyrical too in the Larghetto, though Bax doesn't smooth out edges; nor does Over, stressing differences in colour as in the C minor and A flat wind interludes. Such care over detail and absence of meretricious display extend to the finale, spill over into the solo Variations (though only two are believed to be genuine) and into K595 as well. A bright radiance surrounds the outer movements, the first purposeful, the last almost a joyous 'hunting' finale, while the Larghetto, yearning in mood, finds Bax occasionally decorating his line. And Over observes Mozart's instruction to use single strings in the orchestral parts marked 'solo'.
Gramophone Nalen Anthoni
Mozart's C minor Piano Concerto was one that made a particular impression on Beethoven, and it is not difficult to hear why. Whether or not Alessio Bax and Simon Over had this in mind, it seems to have laid a hand on their performance. This is one of Mozart's only two piano concertos in a minor key (the other being K466 in D minor, another of Beethoven's favourites), but though it has melancholy elements in the fabric of its being, it is not a work of tragic stature. Bax and Over play the opening 'Allegro' burdened with darkness, something that is intensified by a recording that is heavy in its textures. It also strongly emphasizes the bass, so that the oboe's second subject, with its lifting octaves, is half smothered by the accompanying bassoons; and later, in the 'Larghetto', as well as at the start of the B flat Concerto, K595, the opening violin melody has difficulty in making itself heard through the rocking accompaniment chords on lower strings. Bax underestimates the touching simplicity of the 'Larghetto', with its wistful as well as melancholy elements, and gives a steadily sombre performance; and in the finale there is room for more of the lightness and indeed cheerfulness that can break in.
As he shows in his deft handling of the Variations on 'Come un agnello', Bax is more than capable of wit. The tune is from an aria in Sarti's opera I due Litiganti, so popular in its day that when the band plays it at Don Giovanni's dinner, Leporello immediately spots it and exclaims, 'Eviva i Litiganti!'. Bax shows a lightness and fluency of touch that are exactly appropriate, which makes it regrettable that he should not reflect more vividly the lightness, however tinged with wistfulness, in the theme of the finale of the B flat Concerto, K595. As in the first movement, the passagework is strong and accurate, but sometimes a little directionless; while in the 'Larghetto' the solemnity is well sustained but unrelieved.
International Record Review, John Warrack
Leeds International Competition winner Alessio Bax here extends his repute as a performer of gossamer brilliance with a Mozart disc (rec. 7-8 June 2012) dear to his own heart. What strikes me about these two oft-performed concertos in Bax’s realization with the youthful players of the Southbank Sinfonia under Simon Over has to be the sustained level of controlled intimacy each of the works projects, that rare combination of fleet digital fluency and interior drama that emerges in the course of Mozart’s open-work dialogues between the keyboard and the assorted wind and string instruments. In the 1786 C Minor, Mozart’s most elegantly crafted tragic expression in the concerto form, Bax negotiates the various melodic leaps in elegantly brisk style, while the orchestral colors – flute (Lina Andonovska) and bassoons (Ruth Rosales and Sophie Crawford) – add a dimension of wistful yearning to the proceedings. The quality of the strings, moreover, often avoiding vibrato, impart a haunted quality even in the midst of otherwise ravishing runs and flourishes. The cadenza by Bax, terse yet rife with the pungent drama that adumbrates much of Beethoven, recalls much of the poignant drive that Edwin Fischer brought to this passionately grand piece.
The darkly chromatic sturm und drang continues into the exquisite Larghetto, where the woodwinds – such as oboes Odette Cotton and Nicola Barbagli – contribute their disturbed hues. Mozart’s sense of color provides another form of quiet drama in the subtle theme and variations of the Allegretto finale, which often assume the textures and dynamic of a virtuosic piano and wind quintet or serenade. Trumpets (Russell Jackson and Raffaele Chieli) and tympani (Catherine Ring) make their hearty presence felt as we transition into the E-flat Major variant, a moment of militant aggression which soon reverts to the composer’s introspective and even contrapuntally melancholy muse. Lovely, seamless runs for the G Major variant, the staccati from Bax in luminous pearls. The decisive pulse to the finale, with its wry and demonic explosion to 6/8, compels to applaud a superior reading, pungently present as if we too witnessed the recording session at Saint Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London.
Among the more restrained versions of the 1791 B-flat Major Piano Concerto, the Bax/Over collaboration delights in lyrical effusion and ease of transition. Mozart’s complete inner serenity in this piece informs every evolution of its color blends, as when the keyboard plays upward runs and arpeggios against tripping pizzicati in the opening movement. For a gilded moment, the first violin (Leslie Boulin Raulet) plays in tandem with Bax’s luxuriant piano, the latter a ceaseless, moving glow that illuminates a broad if melancholy emotional landscape. The B Minor development that invokes colors from bassoons and fertile strings and their alchemy with the keyboard warrants tears, even before the transition to a C Major that seems a galaxy away from our emotional center. Another tender, virtually other-worldly Larghetto ensues, the French horn (Phillippa Slack) ushering the rising melody and its wistful roulades. Recording engineer Mike Hatch captures the Bax Steinway with superlative resonance, avoiding any ping in the overtones. The last movement, an instrumental rendering of Mozart’s own “Sehnsucht nach dem Fruelinge,” adds a more bravura dimension, especially in the rather thrilling string and flute work that accompanies Bax’s aeronautics.
Serving as a delightful encore, the 1784 Variations on Giuseppe Sarti’s opera Fra I due litigant il terzo gode, While Two Engage in Debate, a Third Enjoys, provide Bax a fertile garden of digital delights, the tune having been based on a familiar aria, Come un agnello, which Mozart would utilize once more in Don Giovanni. Bax imposes a colossal alla musette character upon the whole, the work here ringing spontaneously like a most elaborate musical box. The clarity of line resembles that of Walter Gieseking but with a decided girth in the tone of a carillon character. My personal favorite among the variants, No. 6, bubbles and percolates with astonishing éclat. Jabbing accents ensue at No. 7, and No. 8 (entering after a natural cadenza) journeys into more intimate realms – a virtual sonata in itself – before pouncing to a thrillingly spectacular finale.
Audiophile Audition, Gary Lemco
A youthful recording of Mozart from pianist Alessio Bax and Southbank Sinfonia. Drive Featured Album, 11 March 2013.
Following on from his acclaimed recording of Brahms piano music, Italian pianist Alessio Bax is tackling two of Mozart's late piano concertos on this new release. Mozart's music is often criticised for being less exciting than his classical counterparts, but Bax and the Southbank Sinfonia bring a new lease of life to these concertos, making the most of the clean lines as well as the cheekier moments hidden within the score.
The result is youthful, beautiful music, peppered with Mozart's trademark tunes. The smiling dialogue between piano and orchestra adds to the sense of fun in the music - listen to the Allegro movement of the Piano Concerto No. 27 to hear a brilliant fusion between the soloist and the orchestral players.
If the concertos can't convert even the most Mozart-phobic of musicians, the neglected set of Variations on Sarti's Como un agnello are certainly deserving of a listen. The piano sparkles in these cheeky musical miniatures, transforming the simplest of tunes into a virtuosic showpiece, delicate lullaby, or weighty dance. The six variations that follow show off the best elements of Mozart's piano writing - and all in under ten minutes. The recognisable tune is taken from his Clarinet Quintet, and slowly transforms a simple hummable snippet of music into an elaborate piano showpiece, expertly executed by Bax's nimble fingers.
Classic FM, Connoisseur's Choice Recording
Alessio Bax is joined by the Southbank Sinfonia in dynamic performances of Mozart's Piano Concertos No 24 and 27. The Italian-born pianist reaffirms his prize-winning credentials in a recording that comes highly recommended.
Northern Echo, Gavin Engelbrecht