German label MDG specializes in state-of-the-art audiophile recordings, often of unfamiliar music, but this disc is a historical reissue touching on the work of a pianist who died young, in an 1976 auto crash, but not young enough to become a legend.
The program combines performances from 1971 (the Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K. 449) and 1965 (the Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K.459) with a pair of Stuttgart orchestras. German pianist Werner Haas was much admired during his lifetime, although not for Mozart; his tastes and talents ran to the later Romantics and to the Impressionist repertoire of his teacher, Walter Gieseking. As a Mozartian he had a style not much heard these days: smooth, unified, and rather simple, devoid of strong expression and differentiation of articulation. Put together with conductor Karl Münchinger and his Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, those linchpins of every collection of cheap Mozart LPs in the 1970s, the result is one of the least lively versions of the Piano Concerto No. 19 on record. The E flat concerto, which is less humorous, fares a bit better as the listener is ensnared in Haas' consistency of technique across large stretches of music; the conductor in that work, the aptly named Mladen Basic, seems less attuned to Haas' style, however.
The recordings aren't dull, and Haas achieves a slightly eerie limpid cantabile in both slow movements. Perhaps his rigorously self-effacing way of playing Mozart will once again emerge as an ideal. The German studio sound of these recordings has been beautifully remastered, and the crucial balance between piano and orchestra was carefully adjusted in the originals, more than making up for a somewhat indistinct sound.
|Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K. 449|
|Allegro vivace||Werner Haas||9:20|
|Allegro ma non troppo||Werner Haas||6:25|
|Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K. 459|
|Allegro vivace||Werner Haas||12:23|
|Allegro assai||Werner Haas||7:35|