Mozart – Piano Concerto No.20; Beethoven – Piano Concerto No.3
Rasa Vitkauskaite; Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra; Anima Musicae Chamber Orchestra; Jonathan Cohler
Ongaku Records 024-129 (ongaku-records.com)
Released in honour of Beethoven’s 250th birthday anniversary, this album also honours the long and beloved tradition of the classical piano concerto. The concept is cleverly simple: choosing to record the first concertos written in a minor key by both Mozart and Beethoven allows Lithuanian pianist Rasa Vitkauskaite to explore the multitude of interrelations in the ways both composers approached piano playing and piano writing. Furthermore, her extensive and thoughtful liner notes not only offer a wealth of historical information but also aid the listener’s aural comprehension of these two masterpieces.
Vitkauskaite’s performance is buoyant and certainly does not lack fully fledged ideas. Whether it is the poetic opening of Mozart’s concerto or the relentless dancing bounce in the concluding movement of the Beethoven, Vitkauskaite has a strong presence and willful execution. Each composer chose specific minor keys (D minor for Mozart and C minor for Beethoven) as ideal canvases for expressing tempestuous feelings and darkness, and they continued to do so in their later works. Vitkauskaite understands that darkness perfectly. She is capable of bringing forth the intensity and tension while still retaining the lyricism of the melodies. She favours her own improvisations and embellishments in the cadenzas, which makes this performance exciting as we are able to hear something new and surprising. Jonathan Cohler is a perfect collaborator to Vitkauskaite, directing both orchestras with clarity and conviction.