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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 (1786) [30:09]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 (1841) [32:08]
Yevgeny Kissin (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis
rec. Barbican Hall, London, September 2006
EMI CLASSICS 3828792 [62:19]

 


Estimable artists both, a great orchestra - but this is a superfluous release, save perhaps as a memento of the two concerts from which the performances come. 

The Mozart performance is surprisingly weak. We might have expected Kissin to play the solo part with a "Russian" sound - not coarse, but pumping up the themes a dynamic or so above the score indications, setting them in sharp relief against the accompaniments. And in the louder passages - for example, the variation at 2:32 of the finale - he doesn't disappoint, with scales and turns that ripple fluently and a ringing left hand in forte. But Kissin's pallid tone at piano sounds dull and lacking in impulse - in such passages, he simply doesn't give us a reason to listen to him. Davis's characteristic synthesis of ruggedness and sensitivity is always welcome in this repertoire, but he seems to have caught his soloist's disease: shiny flutes and oboes add needed variety to the texture, but clarinets and bassoons are oddly subdued. And the first movement's hearty afterbeats have, by 6:03, become merely stolid. You'd never know, from the pale patches here, how dramatic a score this is. 

One might be tempted to blame the dullness on the dry, supposedly unfavorable acoustic of the Barbican - though I've never found it objectionable when attending concerts there - were it not that the Schumann, recorded a few days later, finds everyone concerned in better form. Kissin puts some weight and thrust back into his tone without sacrificing finesse, injecting imaginative bits of rubato - which may take some getting used to - as in the ruminative inflection at 9:51 of the first movement, layering sequences of arpeggios so that the underlying chord progressions are comprehensible. In the central Intermezzo, unfortunately, the playing again turns bloodless. Sir Colin offers forthright, strongly profiled support - the strings are defined with a nice edge, though the important principal clarinet remains unduly reticent. 

For what it's worth, the sound isn't bad, though a bit boomy and congested.

Stephen Francis Vasta

 

 


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