This work is very hard to characterize emotionally, but it sighs and it sings enigmatically. Surprisingly, so many performances are very straightforward, never capturing these soulful, longing qualities that almost approach reverie at times. Not so this time. The interplay here is amazing, Pires' delicate approach is ideal for this music, and the conducting is elastic in that "Furtwanglerian" way. But don't get the impression this is bloated, Romantic Mozart…it's not. (Maybe Furtwangler wasn't the right name to evoke after all.
It's a shame Rubinstein didn't record more of Mozart's music, for his obvious affinity for the composer shines through these 1958-1960 stereo recordings of five concertos. Rubinstein's Mozart is forthright–he refuses to sentimentalize by swooning over the music's beauties or to indulge in larger-than-life playing that would rupture its classical framework. Even in the famous Andante of the 21st Concerto, his melting legato traces the curve of the melody without excess. Moderation was his byword, so while there are times one could wish for over-the-top risk taking–a more unbuttoned Allegro of the K. 453, a tad more melodrama in the first movement of the K. 466, some extra sizzle in the outer movements of K. 488–what we have is built to last for the long term. These are performances you can't get tired of. There's a general sense of rightness about tempo choices, and everything, from the singing tone to the exquisite phrasing to the perfectly managed transitions, reflects a master pianist playing music he feels deeply. The accompaniments are fine and the transfers significantly improved over past issues.
Mozart, who composed 21 piano concerti, can be regarded as the “inventor” of the popular piano concerto. Although J.S. Bach and his son had written numerous concerti for harpsichord or fortepiano and orchestra before him, Mozart’s enormous input to the genre is mostly due to his concerti being regarded as ‘popular music’ by his contemporaries: to be enjoyed and quickly replaced by newer works. For this series on four DVDs, the most influential, the most artistically challenging and the most popular piano concerti have been selected to be performed by the best Mozart interpreters of our time. Volume I features pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Homero Francesch each performing a concerto representing a different stage in Mozart's life. The performances on this DVD were shot in highly attractive baroque venues – at the Mozarteum, Salzburg, in Hampton Court Palace, London and in the Christian-Zais-Saal, Wiesbaden – capturing the atmosphere of a performance in Mozart’s lifetime.
This new recording of…the great D minor, K466, made last November with the LSO under Abbado, is immensely welcome. The old magic is still there: the ability to make every semiquaver in a run count: the way he can invest even quite 'innocent' music…with real meaning and character; the pathos and lyricism he brings to the slow movements; and the tension and drama he reveals in the outer movements of K466.