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 is the most beautiful of Mozart playing, his last piano concerto given here by Emil Gilels with total clarity. This is a classic performance, memorably accompanied by the VPO and Böhm. Suffice it to say that Gilels sees everything and exaggerates nothing, that the performance has an Olympian authority and serenity, and that the Larghetto is one of the glories of the gramophone. He's joined by his daughter Elena in the Double Piano Concerto in E flat, and their physical relationship is mirrored in the quality, and the mutual understanding of the playing: both works receive marvellous interpretations. We think Emil plays first, Elena second, but could be quite wrong. The VPO under Karl Böhm is at its best; and so is the quality of recording, with a good stereo separation of the two solo parts, highly desirable in this work.
The sixth disc in this highly acclaimed series combine two works in which Mozart's powers as an orchestrator come to the fore. Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, K 456, is sometimes referred to as one of the composers military concertos on the basis of the march-like main theme of the first movement. But more striking is the variety of ways that Mozart employs the various groups of instruments: strings, wind instruments and, of course, the piano. This aspect certainly didn't pass unnoticed by a listener as initiated as Mozart's father Leopold: in a letter to his daughter Nannerl he described how his enjoyment of the orchestral interplay had brought tears to his eyes.
This 9-disc set includes the mature solo piano concertos in performances by Andras Schiff and the Salzburg Camerata Academica under Sandor Vegh. The piano sound is notably more recessed than in other versions, giving more attention to the orchestral half of the musical dialog. Additionally, the Bosendorfer piano used by Schiff produces a sound that will not be confused with a modern Steinway.
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.