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CDs: Crotchet


Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Piano Concerto No.22 in E flat, K482 (1785) [35:49]
Piano Concerto No.23 in A, K488 (1786) [26:14] 
Daniel Barenboim (piano and director)/English Chamber Orchestra
rec. 26-27 November 1971, 1-2 January 1967, EMI Abbey Road Studio 1. ADD
Experience Classicsonline

Almost contemporaneously with Barenboim, Géza Anda recorded a set of Mozart’s Piano Concertos with the Camerata Academica of the Salzburg Mozarteum for Deutsche Grammophon. Those performances are now available in a boxed set at bargain price (469 5102). I mention this because when these two sets of recordings were appearing I was a penniless student and economies had to be made so I could only afford one set and I went for Anda. Therefore, for over thirty years the Barenboim set has remained unheard to me, until now and the arrival of this marvellous disk.
Barenboim takes a bigger view of these two works than Anda and the recording is much more forward than the DG version. However, what really matters is the music-making and I can report delight at Barenboim’s interpretations. K482, with its large windband, is given a big, forthright, performance, more 19th than 18th century but this is big music and the work can take this kind of approach. Here is Mozart at the height of his powers in the making of concertos and revelling in his abilities. The same could be said of Barenboim. As with any performance which is keyboard-led the ensemble is very fine, with the interplay between soloist and band a real joy to hear. In the first movement, Barenboim uses his own cadenza - perhaps a little too modern to be thought of as truly Mozartean, but then the same could be said of Edwin Fischer’s cadenza for the third movement (which is abridged). Who are we to disagree with anything Fischer did on behalf of Mozart? It is a small point and it won’t really disturb you, such is Barenboim’s advocacy.
K488 is justly famous for its easy-going lyricism and simple joy of life. Barenboim is, perhaps, ever so slightly hard-edged in his approach to this work. I would have welcomed a little more relaxation from time to time. However, like its companion, this is music-making of the highest order.
The English Chamber Orchestra is on top form and work well with the soloist. There’s some lovely wind-playing and the string sound is smooth and warm. Overall, the recorded sound is first rate, clear, spacious, natural and well balanced. I feel that what we have here is the original sound and little cleaning up was required for this reissue.
I don’t want to be without my Géza Anda set but this is a marvellous companion issue. I shall certainly be looking out for other issues in Barenboim’s set. The disk is well presented, with few notes, but good ones. The front of the booklet has a rather lovely coloured aquatint of Vienna’s Kohlmarkt as Mozart would have known it.
These are performances which are well worth having, and at the price constitute a real bargain.
Bob Briggs


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