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Disc review: Jeunehomme: Mozart, Haydn Piano Quartets


Jeunehomme: Mozart, Haydn Piano Quartets

Alexandre Tharaud, piano

Joyce DiDonato, soprano

Les Violons du Roy, Bernard Labadie, conductor


3.5 stars

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 is known as the “Jeunehomme” because he wrote it for a French pianist who has come down through history as Mademoiselle Jeunehomme. There does not appear to be a Jeunehomme connection with the Haydn Piano Concerto in D also on this disc, but pianist Alexandre Tharaud ties them together with surprises buried in the cadenzas, plus he fills them both with the clarity and youthful spirit that distinguishes the Mozart concerto.

Listening to Mozart’s fabulous “Jeunehomme” concerto, which I often think ranks up there with his great piano concertos, there is no pretending that Haydn was the equal of Mozart. Dear Haydn admitted as much. Paul Johnson, in his recent book on Mozart, includes a bittersweet quote from the older master: “People have said I had some genius, but he was far superior.” But the Haydn is worth hearing, and Tharaud’s passion for the piece is catching.

Between the two concertos are Mozart’s Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in A, K. 386, which gets the same bright treatment. And the famed soprano Joyce DiDonato sings the Concert Aria K. 505 that Mozart wrote for the Irish singer Nancy Storace. DiDonato is good, but I have a thing about the ending to this piece – I can’t ever find a singer who gets it right. Mozart is leading the singer up, up, up – and then there is this whoop of joy, and nobody gets it. Everyone sings it as if it’s this studied exercise. There should be that spirit of joy, especially on a disc as joyous as this one.

– Mary Kunz Goldman

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