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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K595 (1791) [28:45]
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466 (1785) [31:20]
Maria João Pires (piano)
Orchestra Mozart/Claudio Abbado
rec. September 2011, Auditorium Teatro Manzoni, Bologna, Italy & Auditorium, Bolzano, Italy
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 479 0075 [60:16]

There are still eight months left before I have to choose my Recordings of the Year but I already have a cast-iron certainty for my 2013 list.
Lisbon-born Maria João Pires and Milanese conductor Claudio Abbado have been collaborating on and off for forty years. Pires clearly has a special affinity for Mozart’s music and has been playing Mozart concertos publicly since the age of seven. In a long career Abbado has recorded a substantial number of Mozart works including some with his handpicked Orchestra Mozart of which he is artistic director. On some occasions they play using period instruments. Their 2007 Bologna Archiv Produktion recording of the Violin Concertos and Sinfonia Concertante with baroque violinist Giuliano Carmignola used period instruments. On the present Deutsche Grammophon disc period instruments are not used and Pires plays a glorious modern Grand piano. 
Mozart was to die within a year of completing his Piano Concerto No. 27. At its 1791 première in Vienna it is said that Mozart, a formidable pianist himself, directed from the piano. Typical of scores composed towards the end of a composer’s life this beautiful work is often described of having an “autumnal” quality. The opening Allegro at over thirteen minutes is marked by crisp and vibrant playing. Pires’ lightness of touch is remarkable with everything sounding fresh and invigorating. Abbado’s direction reveals plenty of detail and colour. Pires is ravishingly tender in the serene Larghetto. The strings sound as if they have been dipped in gold. The Rondo is buoyant and airy and striking for Pires’ concentration and effortless technique.
The Piano Concerto No. 20 comes from an extraordinarily productive period. Mozart felt settled in Vienna and that was where as soloist he gave the première of the score. This is the first of only two such piano concertos that he composed in a minor key. Pires chooses to use Beethoven’s cadenzas. In the opening Allegro I was stuck by the vibrant orchestral accompaniment while Pires demonstrates her innate control and profound musicality. With its much repeated opening theme the Romanze is gloriously rendered. Pires’s playing in the finale matches exuberance with clean articulation.
The Deutsche Grammophon engineers have provided satisfyingly close and well balanced sound at the service of these breathtaking performances. Pires’ unmannered playing is crisp and fluid with everything sounding natural and effortless. An astonishing meeting of minds.  

Michael Cookson

Masterwork Index: Mozart Concerto 20 ~~ Concerto 27