Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concertos: No. 20 in D minor, K 466 (1785) [33:36]; No. 27 in B flat, K595 (1791) [29:34]
Evgeny Kissin (piano/director); Kremerata Baltica
rec. Herkulessaal, Munich, 17-19 June 2008. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 50999 6 26645 2 [63:16]

Releases by Kissin are never less than fascinating: frozen moments captured along the way of this major pianistís career. They can be a little erratic as Kissinís flawless technique marries itself to his growing maturity. Good to report that this issue, then, is an almost unqualified success.

The first movement of No. 27 is brisk, a breath of fresh air if one compares it to the recently issued de Larrocha/LPO/Solti on Decca 478 2420 - recorded December 1977, there receiving its first international release. Kissin is all style, his orchestra responding with spot-on ensemble. In Kissinís case, orchestral textures are light and frothy, his own articulation matching them exactly. Perhaps Kissin lacks the late-Mozart repose and serenity of Larrocha - or, for example, Brendel and the ASMF under Brendel on Philips - but his viewpoint is refreshing in the extreme. That he directs seems to strengthen the link between himself and the ensemble - particularly the wind and horns. Having seen Kissin on a number of occasions, his general demeanour always seems rather stiff, so it would be interesting to see him in action directing an ensemble. The cadenza (Mozartís) is, overall, lighter than often heard, making deeper undercurrents, when they arrive, seem all the more pregnant with meaning. The evenness of fast passage-work will come as no surprise to Kissin admirers, but heard here in the context of this mature interpretation, it feels as if everything has come together.

Perhaps there is one miscalculation on Kissinís part at 9:35 in the first movement, where the final note of a treble ascent is over-emphasised. The rarity of the occurrence makes it stand out all the more - would it even be noticed in a live performance or is it the repeated listenings on disc that make it obvious? The slow movement is miraculous in achieving intimacy but encompassing outbursts of surprising passion. The tempo of the finale is again brisk, but there is not a hint of rushing or crushing in the semiquaver activity. There is, however, a sense of urgency not often encountered in this movement, a sense that runs into the gripping cadenza.

This is not Kissinís first Mozart No. 20. He has recorded it before with the Moscow Virtuosi under Spivakov (Russian Revelation and Brilliant Classics). Alas, I have not heard this Russian version; on Russian Revelation, it is coupled with Piano Concerto No. 12, the ďlittleĒ A major. The orchestral exposition to the present K466ís first movement is darkly shifting, almost dangerous. Its energy is vastly different from that of, say, Barenboim/ECO (EMI). Barenboimís is in your face; Kissinís more subtle but no less involving. The same rapport as is in evidence in K595 is everywhere here. Woodwind lines intertwine in an illuminating way. Kissinís way with syncopation - so vital in this movement - is at once alive and threatening. Accents can be more forceful than one might perhaps expect, but this fits in perfectly with the reading. Here, the cadenza is Beethovenís. Kissin makes it into such a dramatic fantasia that it almost seems to have links to the extended opening solo of Beethovenís own Choral Fantasy. The central Romanze flows beautifully, its tempo enabling its own central outburst to have the perfect mixture of onward motion and angst. It is the determined bite of each note of the initial ascent of K466ís final movement that sets out Kissinís stall. This is a fitting finale and, again, Beethovenís cadenza is perfect in its combination of summary and culmination.

The gap between the two concertos feels too short, if one opts to listen straight through. The end of K466 needs to register fully before one embarks on the very different K595. The recording throughout the disc (Producer, David Saks and Engineer, Arne Akselberg) is clear and unfailingly involving.

In summary, I enjoyed these performances more than I did the Kissin/LSO/Davis reading of No. 24 from 2008 (coupled with the Schumann) (see review). This is a most successful release.

Colin Clarke

I enjoyed these performances more than I did the Kissin/LSO/Davis reading Ö A most successful release.