"Too many concertos, my dear Mozart," Emperor Joseph II might have said, in the same spirit as he had once complained to the composer about "too many notes". In celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart's death by presenting all 23 of his original piano concertos, in the Bridgewater Hall's third Piano Festival, the guest artistic director Barry Douglas was going, he said, "for the jugular". Rather than gripping dedicated piano buffs by the throats, however, he seems to have missed the mark.
The smallish audiences attracted to this six-day, end-to-end Mozartfest suggest that Roger Wright, controller of BBC Radio 3 (broadcasting the concerts over several evenings) had a point. He was criticised for suggesting that too much Mozart can be "detrimental to the music", and that over-exposure to the music of the Salzburger could "wrongly make it appear slightly more chocolate-boxy than it really is".
In the three concerts I caught later in the week, the Concerto for Three Pianos, played by Kathryn Stott, Noriko Ogawa and Finghin Collins, must have been the piano-tuner's nightmare. It's not a dazzling piece but, as a festive collaboration, it looks impressive and sounds mercurial.
Before that, in Ogawa's purposeful performance of the startlingly innovative "Jeunehomme" Concerto, K271, the elaborate, dark slow movement spelled genuine magic. In the same concert, with Manchester Camerata conducted by Douglas Boyd, former festival director Stott showed her instinct for pacing in the D minor Concerto, K466, capturing its restless undercurrents and making sparkling sense of its changes of direction.
Martin Roscoe stood in for an indisposed Jean-Philippe Collard in the A major Concerto, K488, with the BBC Philharmonic, and gave a genial interpretation, exuding tonal beauty and warmth. Michel Dalberto displayed his exemplary keyboard skill and colouring in the D major Concerto, K451, while Steven Osborne was constantly on the inside of the very last concerto, K.595, in B flat.
Final broadcast on Radio 3 at 7.30pm tonight; all broadcasts available for a week onlineReuse content