Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major K 503 (1786) [35:06]
Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K 449 (1784) [20:30]
Carl Seemann (piano)
Sinfonieorchester des Norddeutschen Rundfunks/Wilfried Boettcher, Leopold Hager
rec. live, 25 February 1972, Kiel (14); 6 December 1979 (25), Hamburg
ORFEO C447961B [55:36]
By all accounts, these two live, analogue recordings from the 70’s have no right to be as good as they are. Their provenance is not necessarily auspicious: the conductors are not star names, the orchestra is “provincial” – or at least not one of the big German bands - and the soloist seems largely forgotten today.
Yet the conducting is wholly authoritative and the playing is majestic. Furthermore, the digitally remastered stereo sound is superb: the balance between the piano and orchestra perfectly reveals their interplay and the bass-line, underpinned by properly prominent timpani, is gratifyingly robust.
The North German Radio Symphony Orchestra was founded by the Allies immediately after the war and was the child of Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt for over a quarter of a century. Carl Seemann was an internationally renowned concert pianist who worked with a host of famous conductors and appeared frequently in chamber music with the distinguished violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan. Both conductors were renowned Mozart specialists – Hager, born in 1935, is thankfully still with us; Boettcher died in 1994. Everyone involved here knows what he is about, and my ears pricked up at the first bars of the gloriously robust and confident opening of K 503. Then it just gets better and better, delivering a wonderfully animated and large-scale account of one of Mozart’s more martial and serious-minded late concertos. The pianist’s trills and runs are percussively articulated and his legato creamy-smooth. His sensitivity is complemented by the playing of the orchestra which, in the lyrical sections, such as the dreamy Andante opening woodwind theme, is as languorous as anything in Così fan tutte or the slow movements of the Wind Serenades.
No. 14, by contrast, is a smaller, gentler affair and Seemann is equally adept in embracing its delicate, wistful character, adopting a gentler touch and a softer, more rounded tone. His occasional audible vocal interjections and humming are rather endearing without being intrusive and merely underline his involvement. The dancing finale is a delight: firm and fluid.
I have no hesitation in dubbing these performances as enjoyable as any in the catalogue.