For six-time Gramophone Award-winner Leif Ove Andsnes, 28 May marks the release of MM/1785 on Sony Classical. The first volume of Mozart Momentum 1785/1786, his second project as the inaugural Artistic Partner of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO), the new album explores one of the most creative and seminal periods of the composer’s career. Andsnes leads the MCO from the keyboard in Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 20-22, joins members of the orchestra for his Piano Quartet in G minor, and plays his Fantasia in C minor for solo piano.

The pianist’s first collaboration with the MCO was a resounding success, culminating in the hit Sony Classical series The Beethoven Journey, named one of the “Best of 2014” by the New York Times and recognized with iTunes’ Best Instrumental Album, Belgium’s Prix Caecilia and BBC Music’s “Recording of the Year.” Indeed, his outstanding musical rapport with the orchestra is such that Gramophone marvels: “There’s so much more to this partnership than just exceptional playing; there’s a palpable sense of discovery.” As The Guardian puts it: “You’d be hard put to find a pianist and orchestra better matched.” Andsnes explains:

“There is something incredibly special for me about collaborating with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra again. After all the work we have done together, we’ve come to understand each other’s music-making better than ever. We really experienced the beauty of Mozart’s concertos as we rehearsed and recorded them together. It was a magical moment, and getting to share it with the fabulous musicians of the MCO overwhelms me with gratitude.”

With “Mozart Momentum 1785/1786,” Andsnes and the MCO delve into what is not only a high point of the composer’s career, but one of the most remarkable periods in classical music history. In 1785 and 1786, Mozart wrote a series of masterpieces that would forever change the piano concerto. He re-examined the roles of the soloist and orchestra, discovering new possibilities for communication and dialogue between them. By showcasing the transformative part Mozart played in the genre’s development, Andsnes and the MCO hope to present a rich portrait of the Classical master at the top of his game. The pianist comments:

“When you realize how quickly Mozart developed during the early 1780s, it makes you ask: why did this happen? What was going on? And that’s what this project is all about. It’s about the momentum of his creativity at this time, which must have been inspired by the need for this kind of concert and these kinds of pieces where he could show his abilities as a composer, performer and improviser.”

In addition to the piano concertos, “Mozart Momentum 1785/1786” celebrates Mozart’s orchestral, solo and chamber works from the same period. MM/1785 features his C-minor Fantasia and First Piano Quartet, for which Andsnes is joined by MCO principals Matthew Truscott, Joel Hunter and Frank-Michael Guthmann, and, to complete the album, MCO concertmaster Truscott leads the orchestra from the violin in an account of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music.

Andsnes himself is already widely recognized as one of today’s leading interpreters of the composer’s music. The New York Times admires his “revelatory Mozart recordings,” Gramophone credits him with “the mark of a great pianist: always allowing Mozart his own voice,” and, after concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic, Austria’s DrehPunktKultur hailed him as “a first-class Mozart interpreter.” When Andsnes played Mozart’s Concertos Nos. 21 and 22 with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra last year, the Star Tribune marveled: “He would be on many critics’ shortlists of the top ten pianists in the world at present, and these

Leif Ove Andsnes: MM1785
Mozart Momentum 1785/1786, Volume 1
Recorded with Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Release date: May 28
Label: Sony Classical

Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 20, K. 466 (leading from keyboard)
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 21, K.467 (leading from keyboard)
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22, K.482 (leading from keyboard)|
Mozart: Piano Quartet No. 1, K.478 (with MCO principals Matthew Truscott, violin; Joel Hunter, viola; Frank-Michael Guthmann, cello)|
Mozart: Fantasia, K.475 (piano solo)|
Mozart: Masonic Funeral Music, K.477 (not featuring Andsnes; led by MCO concertmaster Matthew Truscott)