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Mozart: Piano Concertos 23 and 9 ‘Jeunehomme’

Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performed by Imogen Cooper, Northern Sinfonia conducted by Thomas Zehetmair
Avie / AV2100 / Recorded live at The Sage, Gateshead, UK

This is a pianist of extraordinary range, with an ability to generate an almost overwhelming fullness and volume of sound, yet instantaneously to switch to the most veiled, pianissimo textures...

The Independent

Her performance was impressive for its episodes of restraint and pensiveness...wondrously delicate and, when called for, steely and incisive.

The New York Times

Imogen Cooper's strongly projected, stylistically sensitive performance stands up even alongside such distinguished modern versions as Uchida, Brendel and Schiff. With crystalline articulation and an exhilarating range of colour and dynamics, Cooper never lets you forget that the so-called Jeunehomme (K271) is a concerto of radical extremes, both within and between movements.
In the opening Allegro especially admirable is her vocal lyricism in the 'second subject', her powerfully directed passagework and the impassioned sweep of the wonderful modulating sequences near the start of the recapitulation.

Some may feel she lingers overly in the C minor Andantino, though she always balances expressive rubato with an eloquent feeling for the long line. She conjures a new forlorn bleakness in the quasi-operatic recitatives towards the end, and rightly makes the cadenza the emotional climax of the movement. Despite odd moments of slack ensemble, the Northern Sinfonia play with style and verve.

Cooper is equally responsive to the radiant, wistful and (in the Adagio) elegiac lyricism of K488. Again she illuminates, vividly, affectionately, yet with no hint of sentimentality, the music's shifting moods and colours while maintaining a strong melodic flow. When the main theme of the Adagio returns, after the serenading grace of the brief A major episode (beautifully realised here), she enhances its pathos with delicately expressive embellishments. After this, the airborne finale keeps elegance and animal spirits in ideal balance. Anyone who wants this particular coupling will find Cooper and the Northern Sinfonia (wonderfully tangy clarinets, incidentally, in K488) among the subtlest, liveliest and most probing of Mozartians.

Gramophone Classical Music Guide 2010

The dialogue between keyboard and orchestra is highly developed and the quality of sound is superb

The Independent on Sunday

Like Colin Clarke, I retain a great deal of affection for Alfred Brendel’s performance of the Jeunehomme Concert, K291, not least for his first recording of it which I recently reviewed as reissued on the super-budget Alto label (ALC1047, with No.14, K449). I do think, however, that his erstwhile student Imogen Cooper has a slight edge in this live recording, coupled with K488, which has a strong claim to be the pinnacle of Mozart’s concertos. Though K488 is placed first here, the earlier work comes as by no means an anti-climax and, as CC rightly says, the applause after each is strongly deserved. Whatever other version(s) you may have – for example, Kovacevich in K488 – this Avie recording is almost mandatory.

MusicWeb International

Mozart: Piano Concertos 23 and 9 ‘Jeunehomme’