Here are two of Mozart’s
greatest concerti, written as he entered
the final phase of his mastery, in strongly
characterised performances by Daniel
Barenboim, with one of the world’s truly
great orchestras; can’t be bad can it?
Well, the answer is
no it can’t, but the little caveat lies
in the phrase ‘strongly characterised’
above. Not everyone will like Barenboim’s
warmly Romantic approach to Mozart.
He responds in an explicit way to every
undercurrent in the music, in diametric
opposition to the cooler ‘authentic’
approach. Indeed, some will feel his
playing to be downright affected, though
I certainly wouldn’t go so far as that.
But I am more comfortable with a more
detached interpreter – Perahia is the
ideal – who allows the music to speak
for itself a little more straightforwardly.
That said, this issue
has much to treasure. Barenboim is a
supreme chamber musician, and, directing
from the keyboard as usual, he brings
those qualities, so appropriate here,
to the music. There is a real intimacy
in the exchanges, and the balance between
orchestra and soloist is unusually good.
So often, one loses all the wonderful
detail in the woodwind (e.g. in the
central section of the 1st
movement of K.491) because pianists
assume their figuration is where the
interest is – in reality, it’s often
just an accompaniment to thematic developments
The string playing
is, as you’d expect from the BPO, quite
superb, and this adds another dimension
to the slow Andante of K.503
– indeed, this movement was the highlight
of the CD for me, its harmonic subtleties
and delicate changes of mood perfectly
achieved by the musicians.
The main cadenzas are
by Barenboim himself, and have the great
virtue of not being too long – indeed
they are in ideal proportion with the
movements in which they sit. They both
become rather Beethovenian, though;
the way Barenboim has seized on rhythmic
motifs, and his use of various kinds
of augmented 6th chords,
brings to mind the Pathétique
Sonata, or the C minor Concerto.
But the sublime, unsurpassed
beauty of this music comes across in
generous quantities in this fine issue
– undoubtedly a bargain not to be missed.