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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major K467 (1785) [27:30] Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K466 (1785) [31:16]
András Schiff (piano)
Camerata Academica des Mozarteums Salzburg/Sándor Végh
rec. 12 December 1989, Konzerthaus, Grosser Saal, Vienna
Presto CD DECCA430 510-2 [59:02]
These are two magnificent performances from a superb survey of all the major concertos, plus the Double and Triple. They now reappear in the original coupling thirty years after the disc’s first appearance. Presto continue their laudable reissue programme of reissuing exact facsimiles of now unavailable recordings. That said, they are, as in many cases, available in larger box sets which work out cheaper per disc. This CD is for those who want just these two concertos. I notice that the exact recording is available through Presto in a release by Classic FM 4808631 at less than half the price of this but obviously not with the original sleeve and with short notes from Jeremy Siepmann. Incidentally both this facsimile disc and the Classic FM version are available through Presto to download in CD quality, (44.1 kHz, 16 bit) should you prefer this. However apparently in neither case is the booklet available. The combination of one of my favourite pianists András Schiff and the elite chamber musician Sándor Végh, whose eponymous quartet’s two recordings of the Beethoven’s quartets have been in my collection for years, was a marriage made in heaven this is certainly the case for these two favourite works.
The Presto disc begins with the more popular No. 21; fortunately we’re spared the “Elvira Madigan” sub-title. Schiff is in finest form throughout and works well with the orchestra. I notice that he has just recorded the two Brahms piano concertos with him directing the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (ECM): an exciting prospect. With the present Mozart disc he was happy to have a conductor. With this composer it works well either way and would cite Brendel with Marriner (Philips) and the wonderful Clifford Curzon with various conductors as acclaimed accompanied versions. Barenboim (twice) and Murray Perahia are highly successful examples of the self-directing approach. In the present reading of K467 my only surprise came with the first entry of Schiff in the third movement. I’ll let you discover this but the approach seemed different from what I’d expected; I couldn’t see any reference to this in the notes.
One benefit of reviewing these reissues is the opportunity to hear again classic recordings which haven’t been played for some time. On a personal note, No. 20 K466 has been a very firm favourite since I first heard a radio broadcast of the slow movement about 60 years ago, aged 7 on my father’s rented Bakelite radiogram. For many years my go-to recording was the superb recording from Sir Clifford Curzon with Benjamin Britten recorded at the Snape Maltings in 1970 but not released until after Britten’s death. That version is on Decca and also in the Mozart 225 monster set which I purchased three years ago. It’s also in the more manageable set of Curzon’s Decca recordings. I would certainly place this traversal in the high echelons. Perhaps Schiff is more flamboyant in the first movement; after all it is an example of “Stürm und drang” (Storm and stress). Unlike K467 but like it’s semi “twin” No.24, it is in a Minor key which, for Mozart, will always come with an undercurrent of unease. In this case this meets a sense of occasion and spontaneity. I liked the cadenza at the end of the first movement Allegro maestoso and the empathetic re-entry of the orchestra which clearly influenced the young Beethoven; lovely woodwind too. The Romance always puts me in mind of the music in Joseph Losey’s wonderfully traumatic film The Go Between (1971) and seems to indicate stirred and partially unfulfilled emotion. Schiff and Végh take the epic approach which takes one through all kinds of responses; and some people think Mozart is “pretty pretty music”! The Rondo Allegro Assai always seems to have a semi-hesitant quality from the pianist with the orchestra being more confident. I also love the pawky humour in the final bars. Once again Schiff, Végh and the Camerata strike just the right note and the early digital sound is of Decca’s highest order.
I started this review feeling that I would be in for a real treat and I was absolutely right. These are two of the finest Mozart piano concerto recordings and if you don’t want more of them, this CD is perfect. David R Dunsmore