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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor, K466 (1785) [29:58]
Piano Concerto No.15 in B flat major, K450 (1784) [23:17]
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (Piano)
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR/Antoine de Bavier
rec. 11 July 1956, Ludwigsburg Festival, mono. ADD
ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5103 [54:24]

The young Michelangeli is in uncharacteristically ebullient form, his playing exuding a real joyful insouciance as he despatches the roulades with gay abandon. K450 is not as high-minded a work as the more celebrated K466, so both Michelangeli and his conductor accentuate its playfulness, emphasising the perky joie de vivre of the opening "Allegro", the unabashed sentimentality of the "Andante" and the beguiling naivety of a finale which runs as close to being banal as the adult Mozart ever came. Michelangeli's technical finesse is a thing of wonder: the runs are crystalline, the trills brilliantly even and the arpeggios as voluptuous as those on a harp. He plays Beethoven's dark, muscular cadenzas with total assurance.
In the opening of K466, the listener is immediately struck by the freedom and exhilaration of the pace set by conductor Antoine de Bavier. He is directing an unfashionably big band but despite the odd squawk and sour note, they are light on their feet and clearly enjoying themselves as much as their distinguished soloist. There is nothing restrained or ethereal about the "Romanze"; it proceeds in a serenely bold and confident manner, the statement of the second subject being redolent of an optimism which is the complete antithesis of more hesitant, angst-ridden interpretations. The chords at 4:14 are almost brutally assertive. The "Rondo: Allegro assai" is a weighty, quicksilver romp, hardly subtle but, again, great fun. 
The boomy, clangourous sound is no treat but eminently listenable for a live performance from 1956. There is some coughing and a fair bit of flutter in the original tape but ICA have here resisted the temptation to over-master and remove too many upper frequencies, so there is still a fair amount of hiss - and better that than the muffled quality which afflicts their issue of the 1958 Callas "La traviata".
The orchestra may be second-rate but their enthusiasm is infectious and this live concert performance reveals a side to the 36-year-old Michelangeli which was gradually subsumed into that of the austere and gloomy maestro.  

Ralph Moore 

Masterwork Index: Mozart Piano concerto 15 ~~ Concerto 20