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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K 488 (1786) [23:58]
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major, K 482 (1785) [31:05]
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K 491 (1786) [27:27]
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 2055898 [90:46]

 


This is The three concertos played here are the first half of a marathon concert in celebration of Mozart’s 250th anniversary and Rudolf Buchbinder’s 60th birthday.  Buchbinder’s Concerto 23 is striking for its lightness and brightness of texture and the lilting quality of the orchestral introduction. The sound is that of a chamber orchestra yet with a gleaming, golden character. The piano tone is more bright and distinct than smooth.

I compared the 1989 recording on CD by the Berliner Philharmoniker/Daniel Barenboim (piano, conductor) (Elatus 2564 61174-2). Here for comparison, as throughout this review, are the actual music timings of both accounts:


Timings   

I

 II   

III

Total    

Buchbinder

10:40

5:42

7:36

23:58

Barenboim

11:25

7:20

8:10

26:55

There’s more momentum about Buchbinder’s first movement yet he still finds a more gliding second theme by contrast (tr. 2 1:52) where Barenboim, usually more measured, is more tripping. Barenboim’s phrasing of the piano solos is more poised and crafted where Buchbinder emphasises progression within a more even line. His reading of Mozart’s cadenza is similarly evenly fluent where Barenboim contrasts more strongly its bustling outer and poised inner sections.

Buchbinder’s slow movement begins with subdued piano tone and a still fluent approach. Clarinet and flute dominate violins overmuch in presenting the second theme (tr. 3 12:34 in continuous timing), but its upfront, aching character makes an interesting contrast to the piano’s beginning. The third theme (13:52) provides a brief relief after which the return of the opening seems sadder and more sullen. Buchbinder over ornaments the repeated phrase at the end (15:34), filling in the dramatic wide leaps in the melody, shifting the focus away from emotion to technique and artifice.

Barenboim is slower and more intense in this movement, closer to Mozart’s marking of Adagio while Buchbinder seems to favour the early printed edition’s Andante. Where Barenboim thereby gazes forlornly into an expanse, something of the emotion is blunted in Buchbinder’s account. Barenboim’s plainer return of the opening theme creates a sense of stark, irreconcilable tragedy.

Buchbinder’s rondo finale is an appropriately brisk Allegro assai. His opening solo creates an impetuous, headlong quality. The whole breezes along with irrepressible joie de vivre. Buchbinder’s face in addressing the orchestra is eager and grinning, that indeed of a birthday boy in seventh heaven getting all the treats. Barenboim presents the finale crisply articulated and rhythmically very clear. He offers mellow consideration in place of Buchbinder’s attractive spontaneity.

Buchbinder’s Concerto 22 has again a striking orchestral introduction of light, clear articulation, lithe phrasing and tuttis which are resplendent without bombast. There’s a poised opening piano solo with the emphasis on melody but also a playful edge. The second theme (tr. 5 30:56) has in Buchbinder’s hands an appealing, jaunty touch. The development (32:53) is fluent but the piano over masks the woodwind backcloth. The unidentified cadenza, not by Mozart, has a lyrical centre encased in bravura writing.

I compared the concert on DVD by the Berliner Philharmoniker/Daniel Barenboim (piano conductor) (Euroarts 2055308, review) just 6 days before Buchbinder’s.


Timings   

I

 II   

III

Total    

Buchbinder

12:39

8:22

10:04

31:05

Barenboim

13:19

9:36  

11:20

34:15

Barenboim goes for grander orchestral tuttis with more drive. His opening piano solo has more weight and density. His cadenza is more volatile in its alternation of kinetic energy and stillness. His approach is more romantic, Buchbinder’s more classical with a keen sense of the progression of the musical line and the lyricism within this. He also seems more in conversation with the orchestra; Barenboim seems more set apart.

There’s an emotive warmth to the muted strings’ introduction in Buchbinder’s approach to the sorrowful slow movement yet also one of flow and shape, of clear sighted intelligence. The piano solo first variation has an initial breadth to its sympathetic response which allows Buchbinder to become more urgent as he continues. The first episode (tr. 6 42:00) with woodwind in the limelight is freer and happier but it too has urgency and still more so does the piano’s second variation (43:04). The flute and bassoon duet of the second episode (44:04) is more honeyed but those muted strings are still evident, affecting the overall impression and making a logical progression to the involvement of all in a starkly tragic yet also careworn third variation (44:51). Equally logically Buchbinder’s coda (46:25) has a kind of resigned relaxation, underlined by a magical, albeit unmarked, slowing of tempo for the piano’s closing phase of expressiveness (47:07). Barenboim’s slow movement has an even warmer, more spacious, sultry introduction but the rich, upholstered tone makes the sorrow more abstract. Buchbinder’s emphasis on movement, rhythm and sforzandi conveys more direct sorrow to more poignant effect.

Buchbinder’s finale has pace, lightness of touch yet zip to the progression. He has a ball and you get caught up in his enthusiasm. His repeats of the rondo theme are increasingly outlandishly ornamented. The second theme (tr. 7 50:20) has a happy momentum. The Andantino cantabile central Minuet (52:18) is warm and mellifluous. In the repeat of the melody a solo violin, rather than first violins, doubles the piano: an agreeable touch. A fast cadenza, again the composer isn’t identified, leads to an emphatic affirmation of the rondo theme rhythm. The unadorned return of the theme is extremely effective after the previously ornamented versions. Barenboim’s finale is sprightly yet melodious. His broader second theme is more humorous and his Andantino cantabile more serene. Buchbinder is more animated.

Buchbinder’s Concerto 24 has an orchestral introduction of energy and heroic quality. Even the subsidiary theme (tr. 8 61:32) has purpose, momentum and allure. The piano solo starts with some breadth but by the time it reaches the second theme (63:12) it’s tripping along in happy make believe. The unidentified cadenza starts grandly and is then more fluent and even musing before acquiring more bounce.

I compared the 1988 recording on CD by the Berliner Philharmoniker/Daniel Barenboim (piano conductor) (Elatus 2564 61358-2).


Timings   

I

 II   

III

Total    

Buchbinder

12:38

6:53

7:56

27:27

Barenboim

13:54

8:05

9:28

31:27

Barenboim’s introduction has a more measured, brooding nature. Barenboim’s piano solo is more reflective. His own cadenza is highly charged and romantic. Buchbinder’s emphasis from the start on the staccato element at the end of the main motif points an abrupt and fickle character which makes the recurring sunny material, tellingly shaped, a logical part of the whole rather than a striking contrast.

Buchbinder’s slow movement is smooth, flowing and balmy. Its first episode (tr. 9 64:22) supplies a little disturbance in the woodwind but just as much florid effect which the piano repetitions calm down. The second episode (66:07) is perhaps over eager but this makes the markedly slower return of the opening refrain all the more refreshing. The coda (68:51) then speeds up a little. In this movement Barenboim is throughout calm, poised and stately, with a first episode more absorbed than disturbed, a blithe second episode and gently decorated return of the opening refrain.

To the finale Buchbinder brings a thrillingly manic element. The theme is straightforwardly presented but the piano’s first variation (tr. 10 70:53) is a spiky attack with repeats decorated. This inspires the woodwind in variation 2 (71:39). Variation 3’s martial strut (72:26) is all bounce and fervour. In variation 4 (73:16) the piano gives the stressed phrase ends a swagger. Variation 5’s compact, complex argument Buchbinder presents with admirable fluency. Variation 6 (75:02) is the sunny interlude in C major but Buchbinder’s pace points its ephemeral nature. Variation 7 (76:03) re-establishes the initial mood before the piano dominance and volatility of variation 8 (76:39) creates a pacy, quixotic close. Beside Buchbinder’s greater animation Barenboim seems rather staid.

Buchbinder’s are attractive performances with a keen sense of line and progression, but the pace of the slow movements is controversial.

Michael Greenhalgh

 

 


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