It's unclear where these performances fit into the greater
scheme of things. Jean-Bernard Pommier's gentle attack produces
is consistently limpid but unvarying in color, and slightly
under-articulated as well; though he inflects the second
theme of the Coronation with enough rhythmic point.
He understands the Mozart style, but otherwise doesn't
seem to have much to say.
Thus, the Coronation gets a perfectly good performance in which
one tends mostly to notice the wrong things. Pommier's
limited, monochromatic tone proves inadequate to color
the first movement's moments of operatic drama - the shift
to minor at 7.28, for example. He does, at least, muster
up some sonorous heft as he launches the cadenza, and brings
an appropriately scaled rubato to some of the cadenza-like
flourishes. The Larghetto sings simply and blandly.
The closing Allegretto bustles appropriately, but
the slightly pressed tempo provokes a few indiscreet rumbles
from the bass strings.
Concerto 25 strikes the right jubilant note at first, but such passages
as the strings' sequential give-and-take at 0.47, lacking
lift and impulse, sound square. The opening of the Andante aspires
to Beethovenian gravity, but the movement soon settles
into merely pretty note-spinning, and the landing at 5.41
is precarious. The Allegretto finale, at last, calls
up the needed bracing energy, with trenchant woodwind contributions
and buoyant punctuation from the batteria.
Solidly weighted but routine support from the Philharmonia reinforces the
performances' generic impression. Other pianist-conductors
on disc have etched a stronger orchestral profile: Ashkenazy
(Decca) drew rounder, riper phrasing and tone, looking
forward to the Romantic style, from his version of the
Philharmonia, while Perahia (Sony) elicited brighter, more
distinctly articulated textures, suggesting the music's
Baroque roots, from the English Chamber Orchestra.
The overall sound leans towards brightness, with an ambience that doesn't
obscure detail. The balance in the first movement of the
C major concerto somewhat disfavors the woodwinds against
the soloist and the strings.
Stephen Francis Vasta
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