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MOZART. Wind Concerti (CLASSIC fM): Crassic FM don't give up, do they? They still persist with their preposterous "Mood Guide", designed to allow the unsure purchaser to select whichever disc fulfils his emotional requirements, all indicated on a quaver-count rating.

So, among other attributes, this collection gets a maximum five for "soothing" and a measly two for "exhilarating". Many music-lovers, I among them, would baulk at Mozart being described as "soothing". He is certainly the most disturbing composer I know, and certainly the most life-enhancing: hence two fingers to the niggardly two quavers for "exhilarating".

But let's progress to the actual music, and performances from a range of talented young British soloists which are exhilarating indeed. The controversial Sinfonia Concertante for oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn is probably the finest bit of Mozart reconstruction by another hand, and on a par with Anthony Payne's miraculous elaboration of Elgar's Third Symphony.

Melodies are ornamented with relish, almost like those irritatingly gifted whistlers who can embellish their exuberances with deliciously liquid mordents; instrumental pairings are beautifully balanced.

There is a hint of tempo instability in the support of the Britten Sinfonia under Nicholas Cleobury, but certainly nothing to detract from the overall effect of this gorgeous music.

Completing this generous disc are winning accounts of the Flute and Harp Concerto, fabulous music despite Mozart's alleged dislike of the instruments and irritation at the commission, and the endearing Bassoon Concerto.

This CD sits nicely alongside the same label's earlier release of Mozart's more famous wind concerti (flute, oboe and clarinet), completing a more than safe recommendation for recordings of some of the most treasurable works written in this awkward medium. HHHH (you can guess why the final accolade is missing).

STEPHEN KOVACEVICH (Various composers) (Philips): This second double-CD of recordings by Stephen Kovacevich in Philips's exciting "Great Pianists of the Century" series brings several concerto performances from this eminent pianist in his earlier years.

Sir Colin Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra collaborate in perceptive accounts of Bartok's Second and Stravinsky's Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments. Sir Alexander Gibson takes over the BBCSO baton for the first Piano Concerto by Richard Rodney Bennett, a Feeney Trust commission premiered by Stephen Bishop (as he then was ) and the CBSO in 1968 - I well remember the growls of the young lion as he addressed the keyboard.

The concerti fill one CD, the other containing solo works by Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms and Bartok, to complete a valuable and quite representative sample of this remarkable pianist's work. HHHHH

Christopher Morley
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 14, 1999
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