W. A. MozartPiano Concertos K. 467, 488, 595Masonic Funeral Music K. 477Symphony in G minor K. 550
"We have to beware of approaching Mozart while polishing the spectacles of historical perspective. Nostalgia is behovely, but it is inert. The vision he purveys must not be that of a long-dead stability for which we hopelessly yearn. It is not Mozart's function to soothe: he purveys an image of a possible future, rather than of an irrecoverable past," concluded Anthony Burgess in his book On Mozart, written for the bicentenary of Mozart's death in 1991.
Mozart remains of course the paradigm of the serious craftsman whose work must be measured by its fecundity, by its bulk and its variety as well as its excellence. Against him, the prolific artist (and Burgess was certainly one, as Jarrett is another) may gauge, with due humility, his own progress - and perhaps draw strength from the fact that even the Austrian composer was disparaged for doing too much too well.
Keith Jarrett has been reckoning with Mozart's music for most of his life, indeed, opened his debut recital at the age of 7 with Mozart. His playing of the piano concertos as a mature artist, less a "crossing over" than a continuation, has benefitted, some critics have felt, from his understanding of the improvisational process - an understanding that separates him from most classical pianists. Jarrett believes that improvisational capacities are imperative for playing 18th century keyboard music, otherwise "you are missing some giant link. There's a tactile quality missing. When you're an improvisor there's a certain shimmer to the motion of things."
Jarrett's parallel (public) life as an interpretive pianist was re-launched with performances of 20th century music with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies in 1979, and Jarrett and the conductor have frequently worked together since then, with collaborations including a Mozart performance in Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1995.
It has been observed that Jarrett‘s approach to both the baroque and the classical repertoire is one of extreme clarity and respect for the score. With Dennis Russell Davies conducting (and with the transparency and depth of the ECM recording to clarify matters) the relationship of the soloist's role to the orchestral writing in concertos Nos. 21, 23 and 27 is illumined in a way it rarely is when the focus is turned upon a flamboyant or idiosyncratic interpreter. Here, plainly, the orchestra has more to offer than "accompaniment".
The Stuttgarter Kammerorchester also glows in performances of the Masonic Funeral Music and the perennially popular Symphony No. 40. The Funeral Music was written for the burial of two Freemasons who died on consecutive days in November 1785. As Mozart scholar Hans Engel wrote, "The depth of feeling can hardly be attributed to any particular intimacy with the deceased brethren [Duke Georg August von Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Count Esterházy von Galantha]: it arises rather from an absorption in the whole problem of death upon which Mozart pondered deeply.(...) He evidently brought to mind a real or visionary funeral in which, after a sorrowful introduction, the coffin is carried past, whilst the psalm tune 'Miserere mei Deus' is played as a march by a curious and unique collection of winds."
The Symphony in G. Minor K. 550, written three years before Mozart's own death, has been recognized as an unusually forward-looking work; in his Harmonielehre, Schoenberg pointed to passages of surprising harmonic tension in the symphony's first movement which anticipate developments in early 20th century music. As an ardent advocate also of the music of our time, Dennis Russell Davies is clearly alert to the implications of such passages but resists the temptation to "over-interpret" the music. Conventionally, "the attempt is made to bring it into relationship with Mozart's personal situation, which by then was obviously desperate," Jens Peter Larsen has written. "But to argue thus is to do Mozart an injustice, for in his fundamental outlook he remained 'classic', seeking to master all the varieties of expression, but not identifying his musical expression with his personal private mood."