Schubert sonatas

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Piano Concerto in D, #26, K.537, "Coronation" (1788) [31.29]
Piano Concerto in Bb #27, K 595, (1791) [31.33]
Daniel Barenboim, pianist and conductor
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Rec January 1989 (26); February 1988 (27), Siemensvilla, Berlin, Germany.
Notes in English and Deutsch
WARNER CLASSICS ELATUS 2564 60679-2 [63.02]

Comparison Recordings:
Derek Han, Paul Freeman, Philh. O. Brilliant Classics 92112
Mitsuko Uchida, Jeffrey Tate, English CO [#26]
Christian Zacharias, Günter Wand, Northwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra [#27]

Elsewhere I have praised Zachariasís playing of the Mozart concerti and piano quartets very highly. I was referred to him by friends who are Mozart scholars and who were literally knocked out of their chairs by his performance of #20. Zacharias plays Mozart the way a flower blooms, so naturally and authentically. Zacharias has performed with, and without, a conductor and it seems to make no difference to his interpretation. Barenboim, who is one of the great musical performers of this or any age is more consciously a showman. He performs Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Brahms, etc., with consistent brilliance and skill.

This superlative recording of the last two concerti is remarkable for its perfect balance of sound and style; By comparison, Han/Freeman play with a little less assurance, but with more youthful enthusiasm. Han/Freemanís orchestral perspective has the piano closer which also adds a sense of immediacy, making the Barenboim with its very realistic concert hall acoustic sound by comparison more remote, more formal.

Uchida plays these concerti on a giant modern Steinway piano perhaps as Beethoven would play them, perhaps as Liszt played them*. Every resource of her huge instrument is brought to the service of the music, and the result is something that would probably startle if not bewilder Mozart himself. Certainly many people will prefer her approach to any other.

Mozart left full cadenzas for the first and third movements of K.595 only, and Barenboim uses these. His cadenzas for the other concerto movements are interesting if a little blatant in their quotations from The Marriage of Figaro.

The movie Amadeus contained many errors, some of them deliberate, but it did get one thing right: there were people who didnít like Mozart, and for good and sufficient reason. People like that alive today may, for the same reasons, not like Zachariasís performances. There is something of Mozart the brat in them. Barenboim and Han are placed stylistically between these two extremes and, of the two, Barenboim is slightly the more skilled showman, and for most people his performances will be the most satisfactory.

*It is difficult for us today to realise that in his time Liszt was considered the finest interpreter of Mozart in the world. Liszt had bought Mozartís piano to practice on and was so obviously the choice for the 1856 memorial concerts in Vienna that the few who disagreed, i.e., Clara Schumann, could be dismissed as cranks.

Paul Shoemaker

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