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.
see also Review
by Michael Greenhalgh