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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K 449 (1784) [21:36]
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K 503 (1786) [29:56]
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K 466 (1785) [30:11]
Wiener Philharmoniker/Rudolf Buchbinder (piano, conductor)
rec. Grosser Musikvereinssaal, Vienna, 7 May 2006. DDD
Video Director: Karina Fibich.
Sound formats PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1.
Picture format NTSC 16:9.
Disc format DVD 9.
Region code 0 (worldwide).
EUROARTS 2055908 [84:33]

The three concertos played here are the second half of a marathon concert in celebration of Mozart’s 250th anniversary and Rudolf Buchbinder’s 60th birthday. The first half, presented concertos 23, 22 and 24 in that order (Euroarts 2055898, review). This second half begins with Concerto 14. Seeing Buchbinder conduct the first movement introduction clarifies his sense of energy of propulsion at the same time as delicacy of articulation and vertical clarity, the latter significant when the first piano solo echoes the orchestra. The new material and mood introduced by the piano (tr. 2 3:33) which leads to the piano version of the second theme (3:56) Buchbinder displays more ardently. Buchbinder brings out not just the vivacity but also the courtliness and density of this movement. The cadenza played is Mozart’s which Buchbinder begins reflectively before more passionate, dramatized treatment.

I compared the CD of the pioneer of piano conductor Mozart recordings, Geza Anda with the Camerata Academica des Salzberger Mozarteums recorded in 1966 (Deutsche Grammophon 469 510-2). Here for comparison are the actual music times:
















Anda’s introduction is more firm and rigorous but the second theme is more contrastedly lyrical. Anda’s solos have a limpid fluidity. Buchbinder’s are fluent but more sinewy. Anda’s cadenza is more playful, with more poised variation of tempo.

Buchbinder’s slow movement has a lilting opening, tender and warmly flowing yet with an operatic fervour from the strings at the climax of its opening theme. However, the question arises whether the movement flows too readily, even for the marking andantino. The tensions in the piano’s argument become more playful or abstract. Anda’s flow is a little more relaxed, the orchestral playing more objective but the piano solos of more poised phrasing than Buchbinder’s which makes them more personal and aria like. Buchbinder is structurally very clear but less spacious.

Buchbinder’s finale is incontrovertibly more playful, with light articulation from the orchestra and Buchbinder particularly enjoying a skipping presentation of the second theme (tr. 4 16:56 in continuous timing). Good DVD direction also allows us to note some passages where the right hand melody plunges from treble to bass clef and therefore crosses over the left (from 17:12 and 19:02). The coda (20:35) is realized in especially scampering fashion and relished by all. Anda’s orchestra is stiffer in the first theme but the piano energizes and jollifies things. You are won over by Buchbinder enjoying himself, bringing impetus and a certain virtuoso swagger. With Anda you appreciate more the counterpoise with the orchestra.

Next on this DVD comes Concerto 25 to whose first movement Buchbinder brings great style. It has majesty without bombast, grandeur and smoothness by turn in the introduction. The orchestral march theme (tr. 5 24:17) which prefigures the second theme is a fine blend of power and grace. Buchbinder’s piano solo reflects the orchestral material in its own magically gentle theme (27:06) before introducing the second theme (27:43) which takes on a partly strutting, partly quizzical manner in the development (29:25). Buchbinder’s cadenza makes the second theme more warmly and richly melodic as well as revisiting the piano’s own enchanting theme.

I compared the 1988 recording on CD by the Berliner Philharmoniker/Daniel Barenboim (piano conductor) recorded in 1988 (Elatus 2564 61358-2). Here are the comparative actual music timings:
















Barenboim’s first movement has more bombast yet his piano solos have a mercurial touch, glittering fluency and also intimacy. Buchbinder is brighter, with a sense of bubbling, enthusiastic celebration. Barenboim’s cadenza is the more dramatic.

Buchbinder’s andante slow movement (tr. 6) is balmy and smooth. The first piano solo has poise and spaciousness. There’s a pleasing sotto voce effect at the apex of the melody at 39:06 and the repeated leaps at 40:11 are tastefully increasingly decorated. Buchbinder keeps everything simple, sunny and without affectation. Barenboim’s slow movement is calm but with an underlying restlessness, partly owing to emphatic accents. The piano solo is exquisitely etched but not as flowing as Buchbinder’s. Buchbinder’s greater momentum here gives the movement freshness and vivacity.

Buchbinder’s allegro finale (tr. 7) begins a touch steadily to point up the later flourish of the tutti semiquaver triplets and virtuoso flair from the piano solo. Its second theme (44:53) has a firm exterior but unmistakably merry interior and ever the close relationship between soloist and orchestra is appreciable. But it’s the third theme (46:40) that has the most inner spirit though Buchbinder’s ornamentation in its second part at 47:01 is arguably over florid. The tense development of its first four notes by flute, oboe and bassoon from 47:27 seems a little glossed over, given that it’s a suddenly dramatic phase, a recognition of  key elements of life, amidst the candyfloss. Barenboim finds more contrast in the piano solos between ebullience and delicacy, yet again preferring clarity to Buchbinder’s vivacity. His third theme has more inward poise and its development in the woodwind is more appreciable. Buchbinder’s ever eager, shimmering projection sometimes seems to be chasing its own tail.

Finally on this DVD comes Buchbinder’s Concerto 20. A mysterious, soft, edgy opening (tr. 8) is followed by the customary loud tutti which has sharply etched phrasing and rhythmic grit. The second theme (53:42) is smoother but rebuffed by the grim following tutti. The sighing third theme (54:53) is more attuned to the overall mood as is the piano solo entry but I feel Buchbinder lacks a little poise here, being swept along by events and indeed febrile when soon engaged in the return of the opening theme. The second theme, by the time it reaches the piano (56:07), has become careworn while in the fifth theme (56:29) Buchbinder displays a thoughtful first phrase answered by a brusque second one. Often the piano playing is passionate while the orchestra is more civilized. There are subtler elements too, like the sullen colouring of the return of the fifth theme (61:24) in D minor rather than F major. And Beethoven’s cadenza, as usually played, but here with a sense of sudden expanded freedom and wildness in its dramatic, humane distillation of the melodic essentials.

I compared the recording on DVD by Ivan Klansky with the Virtuosi di Praga/Jiri Belohlavek (Brilliant 92819). The comparative actual music timings are:











Klansky & Belohlavek





Klansky and Belohlavek emphasise the lyricism of the first movement. Klansky’s solo entry is more poised and spacious than Buchbinder’s while his fifth theme has a charming first phrase answered by simply a cleanly articulated second one. Klansky’s own cadenza, slightly longer than Buchbinder’s Beethoven, 2:16 against 1:48, is fascinatingly lyrical, jocular, then mercurial. But Buchbinder’s account of the movement as a whole is more cohesive, with more drive to its density.

Buchbinder’s slow movement (tr. 9) is smooth, flowing and a mite pensive. Klansky finds a more joyous dancing lilt and wonderfully deft, tiered softening of the sequential phrases at his second entry, sensitively matched by Belohlavek’s repeat. Buchbinder slows down slightly in these phrases. Klansky’s first episode is of tuneful musing. Buchbinder here (68:08) articulates fastidiously, transported by the music. His second episode (70:20) has more weight and concentration than Klansky’s.

Buchbinder begins the finale (tr. 10) impetuously and gets a stormy response from the orchestra. But the first episode (76:29) begins the smoothing out process, softening the refrain which follows it, paving the way for the happy third theme (77:34). Its triumph in the D major coda (81:06) is a satisfying because not altogether unexpected outcome. Klansky starts to anticipate the celebration even from a first episode with a touch of impishness and his third theme is jollier from the start.

Buchbinder’s are performances of admirable composure and his evident joy in the music making is very appealing. But, as noted above, at certain times I still feel Buchbinder’s performance would be enhanced by a greater sense of space.

Michael Greenhalgh



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