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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat, K. 449 [21:36]
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, K. 503 [29:56]
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 [30:11]
Rudolf Buchbinder (piano/conductor)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
rec. live, 7 May 2006, Großer Musikvereinssaal, Vienna.
DVD-Video; Region: 0; NTSC
EUROARTS 2055908 [85:00]


To celebrate his 60th birthday Rudolf Buchbinder played twelve Mozart concertos with the Vienna Philharmonic – two concerts with no fewer than six concertos in each. These three performances formed one half of a concert which, as Jeremy Siepmann remarks in his booklet notes, coincided with the Vienna City Marathon!

This DVD begins with the wonderful E flat concerto K. 449, a work which has always been relatively neglected but which is actually one of the most consistently great of Mozart’s mature concertos. Even in some of the most famous of these concertos, one movement is slightly less inspired.

Among the disappointing aspects of Buchbinder’s performance of the opening movement is a shortage of bite or temperament in the trills. Also – and this is a general feature of all these performances – there is a rather workmanlike quality to his playing. Semiquaver passages, often impatient-sounding, lack that degree of poise possessed by the really great Mozart players such as Haskil, Brendel or Uchida. In general these are reasonably enjoyable performances - to damn with faint praise! – not least in the engaging, luxurious accompaniments. There can however be so much more character in these marvellously diverse concertos. Indeed, each concerto occupies its own emotional world, but Buchbinder is too generalised, too all-purpose. One editing fault – not long before the cadenza there is a whole beat missing.

The second movement is taken at a flowing tempo, but again the impression is slightly perfunctory and short on pathos, with some of the ornamentation sounding a little flippant - less lyrical than it might. Admittedly, the ideal tempo of this Andantino is difficult to achieve, but here the feeling is definitely two beats to the bar, whereas four-in-a-bar ought to be at least subconscious. The finale, one of Mozart’s most inventive, is more successful, but again more grace and rhythmic point would have been welcome.

The next concerto is the C major - not the D minor, as listed on the box-front - in the opening movement of which Buchbinder misses the essential maestoso aspect of the music’s character, the grandeur of this most Beethovenian of the Mozart concertos. Some may welcome his straightforward, more athletic approach and the freedom from pomposity, but I feel more is lost than gained. The entry of the piano – undemonstrative and almost coy – sadly goes for nothing.

Dogmatism is usually best avoided in matters of tempo, but both the remaining movements do seem just slightly too hurried. The Andante tempo, again difficult to judge, does not quite convince, and the Finale, while technically terrific, is absolutely headlong at times.

The D minor Concerto simply reinforces my overall view. In the opening movement rather more than mere rhythmic drive is desirable. Some of the passage-work has a bluntness which would be more appropriate in Beethoven. This interpretation finds little room for inwardness, and at times Buchbinder is over-emphatic – the result, I am sure, of combining the roles of soloist and conductor. This same problem leads to some less than perfect ensemble in the last movement, the flute making fractionally early entries with the opening figure of the movement.

It has to be said that the idea of playing six Mozart concertos in one concert is crazy. This kind of overkill does no service to Mozart, merely diminishing the value of each successive masterpiece. Buchbinder certainly has the stamina, but I can’t help wondering whether he would have been a little more relaxed and flexible, or would have given the music more time to breathe, had he chosen to play only two or three concertos, and also to play with a conductor. The camerawork is fine, allowing one to share in the obvious enjoyment of soloist and orchestra.                                   

Philip Borg-Wheeler

see also Review by Michael Greenhalgh



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