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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 26 in D, K 537 Coronation (1788) [30.17]
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, K 503 (1786) [32.37]
Jean-Bernard Pommier (piano)
Philharmonia Orchestra
rec. Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Aldeburgh, August 1992
WARNER APEX 2564-61985-2 [64.21]


It's unclear where these performances fit into the greater scheme of things. Jean-Bernard Pommier's gentle attack produces tone which 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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