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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K466 [32:02]
Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major K537 Coronation [30:49]
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra/Friedrich Gulda (piano and director)
rec. live, Philharmonie im Gasteig, Münchner Klaviersommer, 1986
Directed: Janos Darvas
DVD Format: DVD 9 NTSC
Picture Format 4:3
Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Region Code 0
No subtitles
ARTHAUS MUSIK 101673 [66:00]

This DVD showcases two contrasting piano concertos by Mozart: the dark D minor K466 and the bright D major K537. The pianist is one of my favorites, the Austrian-born Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000). Wildly eccentric, he was equally at home both in classical and jazz. Indeed he performed on occasion with the American jazz pianist Chick Corea. I have always rated his Mozart, as well as his Beethoven playing very highly. His 1950s survey of the complete Beethoven sonatas on Orfeo bears testimony to his great affinity for the Viennese classics.
 
The concert featured here sees Gulda taking on the roles of both pianist and conductor. Setting nicely-paced tempi throughout, he cuts a strange figure with his ‘puppet on a string’ conducting technique. Standing during the orchestral passages, due to the positioning of the keyboard at right-angles to the orchestra, his directing skills don’t appear to be in the same league as other pianist/conductor performers such as Ashkenazy, Barenboim and Perahia. He lacks independence in the arms, and the resulting image is a sort of ‘mirror-image octopus’ impersonation. Nevertheless, the results are adequate, even though the orchestral playing can lack a little subtlety at times. 

Any shortcomings in the orchestral playing are truly compensated for in the compelling solo contribution. This is big-scaled playing by any standards: technically brilliant and not for the faint-hearted. Those wanting their Mozart graceful and charming must look elsewhere. Gulda’s performances have rhythmic pulse, and some may even consider them a little too hard-driven. Perhaps he can be over-emphatic in some the bass lines. Nevertheless, he has a great feeling for structure and his profound musicality shines through. All along, he judges ebb and flow well and has a good sense of projection.
 
Camera angles are judiciously chosen. Gulda performs the D minor concerto in a black polo-neck sweater, which he changes to a white one for the D major. This is an apposite choice, reflecting the dark and light contrast in character of the respective concertos. The Arthaus Musik website states that this concert is a first release. This is not true. I have already viewed this concert on DVD several years ago (am@do DVD-Classics 60006); this is still for sale on Amazon, and provides a much cheaper alternative to this present package, albeit omitting any booklet notes.
 
Stephen Greenbank 

Masterwork Index: Mozart piano concerto 20 ~~ Concerto 26


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