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Mozart concertos elegant yet restrained

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Concertos, January 8, 2006

The Vancouver Sun

by David Gordon Duke

The first Vancouver concert of what promises to be so many celebrating the 250th birthday of Mozart was also something of a family reunion for the three pianists of Vancouver’s celebrated Parker clan. Brothers Jon Kimura and James and their cousin Ian joined forces for the concluding work of Sunday afternoon’s program with the CBC Radio Orchestra – the rarely performed Concerto for Three Pianos, K.242.

Tossed off when Mozart was about 20, this is more an ingratiating novelty than an early masterpiece, but it’s not without its moments, particularly the intricate geometry established by the three soloists in the short development section of the opening Allegro, and the charming, ultra-sweet coda to the central Adagio.

The triple concerto was preceded by the Concerto for Two Pianos, K.365, frankly a more rewarding work, if still rather early by Mozartean standards. Much of its charm comes from the relationship between the two solo keyboards, who play in uncanny agreement, converse in a private language, or complete each other’s sentences by turns. Brothers Jon and James (and conductor Mario Bernardi) were in total agreement about their interpretation as well. All was elegance, mitigated with a sobering touch of restraint. In addition to a fine sense of the work’s overall flow, there was an awareness of the concerto’s occasional high spirits; but nothing was brash or overstated.

While the program’s one-two-three rationale made for first-rate programming, Jon Kimura Parker’s performance of the solo Concerto K.467 was the climax of the afternoon. Its current popularity notwithstanding, the ravishing K.467 is a work of sublime near-perfection; the multiple concertos, for all their interest, remain lesser works.

Presenting Jon Kimura Parker in Mozart is casting against type. His hometown audience associates him with more showy works of the 19th and 20th centuries.

His playing throughout the concerto was transparent, clean, and vital. Though the opening Allegro maestoso is fundamentally sunny, he was able occasionally to hint at an undertone of melancholy presaging the celebrated slow movement. The finale was crisp, sly, and agile, the wit refined and graceful. JKP’s cadenzas (his own?) were equally refined, but with split-second anachronisms and quirky cross-references to Mozart symphonies which, one likes to think, Mozart himself would have loved.

Co-conspirator in this remarkable performance was Mario Bernardi. In the pantheon of our musicians, Mario Bernardi is to Mozart what Glenn Gould was to Bach. His emphasis on absolute clarity gives his interpretations a shining honesty and integrity.

The CBC Orchestra a near-flawless back-up that made for concerto performances of rewarding quality.


Mon Jan 9, 2006