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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488 [25:21]
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major, K. 482 [33:38];
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 [29:53]
Rudolf Buchbinder (piano)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Rudolf Buchbinder
rec. 7 May 2006, Grosser Musikvereinsaal, Vienna.
EUROARTS 2055898 [91:00]


In celebration of his 60th birthday Rudolf Buchbinder played twelve Mozart concertos with the Vienna Philharmonic: two concerts with no fewer than six concertos in each. As Jeremy Siepmann remarks in his booklet notes, these concerts coincided with the Vienna City Marathon! The three performances on this DVD comprised just one half of a concert.

Listening to Buchbinder in these concertos, I find I have similar reservations to those expressed in reviewing the companion DVD of K. 449, K. 503 and K. 466. I believe he is a more natural, instinctive interpreter of Beethoven than of Mozart. To say that his generally quite heavy touch is less suited to Mozart is not to imply that a “Dresden china” approach is desirable. It is merely that Buchbinder’s style evokes Beethoven – not simply because of the weight of touch, but also because of a limited range of touch and dynamics.

In the opening movement of K. 488 the first forte orchestral chords are a little too brash, reminding one that A major in Mozart’s music often requires a warmer, “friendlier” forte. Buchbinder’s first entry is rather matter-of-fact, but improves as it continues, whereas his playing of the second subject would have benefited from more phrasing and shaping. There is nothing here to object to violently, but equally there is little which communicates either a special love of this highly individual concerto or any strong interpretative convictions. At times one is too aware of the mechanics of piano-playing, while the shortage of grace and poise results in a restriction of the general expressive range.

For me, tempo in itself is rarely a make-or-break factor in performance, yet the Adagio of this A major concerto is here replaced by more of an Andante – slightly perfunctory and lacking in real pathos. In common with many modern-day pianists, Buchbinder decorates the solo part at certain points, though occasionally, for my taste, the melodic line is not enhanced but trivialised. Again in the finale the projected character is rather too robust and graceless – joyful, certainly, and technically secure, but often hectic or heavy-handed. Listen to Clara Haskil here for phrasing and buoyancy without any loss of energy.

K. 482 - the actual running order differs from that stated on the front of the DVD box - is one of the very grandest of Mozart’s piano concertos, with trumpets, drums and clarinets all enriching the texture. Yet even here I find Buchbinder too heavy at times, as well as tending towards relentlessness and inflexibility in passage-work. The Andante is actually slower in pulse than the K. 488 Adagio, yet this is not in itself damaging to the grave character of this movement. However, the first piano entry is a little matter-of-fact and under-phrased – and therefore less than eloquent. In the finale Buchbinder is robust and rollicking and generally more successful, though the humour is rather heavy. During the central section of this movement, in minuet tempo, solo strings are employed – a decision which to my knowledge has no basis in authenticity and which also seems pointless.

The first movement of K.491 again finds Buchbinder under-playing the pathos, while – less crucially - his grace-notes at the beginnings of phrases are laboured rather than elegant. In the slow movement the wonderful “woodwind serenade” passages are beautifully played, though the soloist’s contribution strikes me as less easeful, more hurried, than desirable. Buchbinder’s general no-nonsense approach, which some may find refreshing, suits the finale of this C minor concerto – especially its stormier passages - reasonably well.

However, my overall impression of this DVD is one of disappointment. Anyone seeking the deep satisfaction these marvellously diverse concertos can provide would be misled by a recommendation.

Philip Borg-Wheeler

see also Review by Michael Greenhalgh




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