Involving, as it does, three master musicians and a fine chamber orchestra this was never likely to be be other than rewarding. It may not correspond with the ways of playing Mozart at the beginning of the twenty-first century which are fashionable at the beginning of the twenty-first century, but it has virtues – such as high intelligence, sympathy, certainty of purpose, grace, alertness of interplay – which transcend questions of performance practice. Looking at the names of the pianists above, we might be surprised by the presence of Sir Georg Solti, so used are we to thinking of him as a conductor. But the young Solti appeared in public as a pianist from the age of twelve and went on to study piano in Budapest, with Dohnányi and Bartok.
This pairing of concertos Nos 25 and 27, recorded with Chamber Orchestra of Europe, is Piotr Anderszewski’s third Warner Classics album of Mozart concertos. “In Mozart I tend to prefer to direct from the keyboard,” he explains, “His concertos are like chamber works … The piano is in dialogue with the orchestra, conversing and interacting all the time. The two works are very different… No 25 is very grand, complex and sophisticated; No 27, Mozart’s final piano concerto, is in a major key, but underneath it I sense an incredible sadness… It always amazes me how deep this music is.”
The partnership of Serkin and Abbado in Mozart is a fascinating one. They are such different musical personalities, yet they work remarkably well together, so that each performance becomes an artistic amalgam of two quite different artistic approaches. Abbado matches a natural spontaneous warmth (listen to the beguiling way the orchestra shapes the secondary theme in the first movement of the A major Concerto) with the utmost refinement of detail; whereas Serkin, patrician, authoritative, strong, is more selfconsciously expressive when he deviates from a strictly rhythmic presentation of the melodic line in the same movement.
This three-disc set of all of the studio recordings of Mozart's piano concertos and sonatas made by German pianist Edwin Fischer between 1933-1947 may elicit different responses from his fans than from listeners not already persuaded of his greatness.
For her fifth live recording of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's piano concertos with the Cleveland Orchestra, Mitsuko Uchida presents the Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K 453, and the Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K 503, a delightful pairing that reflects her previous albums in this critically acclaimed series on Decca.
It's a recording that just a few years ago would have been mainstream: a "name" pianist (albeit one much less well known in the U.S. than elsehwere), who has been playing Mozart's piano concertos since childhood, joins forces with a name conductor with whom she has frequently collaborated, leading a modern-instrument orchestra of some 70 players, with the results released on a major international-conglomerate label. Now it's distinctly unusual. But lo, there's value in the old ways. Portuguese-Brazilian pianist Maria-João Pires is a lifelong Mozart specialist, but she still has new things to say in two of Mozart's most popular piano concertos. You can chalk it up to her Buddhist outlook if you like: her readings of the Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K. 595, and Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, might be described as detached without being lifeless. Her approach is most startling in the Piano Concerto No. 20, where her no-drama shaping of the material runs sharply counter to type. Sample the piano's entrance in the first movement, where it offers a twisting, tense elaboration of the main theme that is far removed from its source material. Generally pianists use this to raise the tension level, but Pires lets the unusually shaped, chromatic line speak for itself with fine effect.