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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1793)
Great Piano Concertos
DVD 1: Piano Concerto No.9 in E flat major, K. 271 “Jeunehomme”; Piano Concerto No.12 in A major, K.414
DVD 2: Piano Concerto No.1 in F major, K.37; Piano Concerto No.4 in G major, K.4; Piano Concerto No.23 in A major, K.488; Piano Concerto No.24 in C minor, K.49
DVD 3: Piano Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, K. 238; Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major; Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466
DVD 4: Piano Concerto No.5 in D major, K.175; Piano Concerto No.8 in C major, K. 246; Piano Concerto No.17 in G major, K. 453; Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat major, K. 595
Pianists: Mitsuko Uchida, Homero Francesch, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Heidrun Holtmann, Zoltán Kocsis, André Previn, Christian Zacharias, Radu Lupu, Ivan Klánský, Malcolm Frager, Christian Zacharias, Dezső Ránki, Aleksandar Madžar
Conductors: Jeffrey Tate, Gerd Albrecht, Marc Andreae, Jiří Bělohlávek, Gianluigi Gelmetti, David Zinman, Jiří Bělohlávek, Gianluigi Gelmetti, André Previn
Director: János Darvas; Producer: Bernd Hellthaler
Full track-listings and artist details at end of review.
Region Code: NTSC: 0; Picture Format: 4:3; PCM-Stereo; DD 5.1; DTS 5.1; Booklet: English, German, French
EUROARTS 2001038 [4 DVDs: 95:00 + 99:00 + 80:00 + 120:00]

Here, in one understated lime-green slipcase of four individually packaged DVDs are performances of thirteen of Mozart’s 27 numbered piano concertos: that’s six of the early concertos and seven of the later and better known examples. The performances are very much in the grand tradition: beguilingly old-school, not ascetic and not doctrinaire HIP. All are in front of audiences in classical concert-hall settings. Camera direction and transitions are musically literate and suggest practised familiarity with the scores. There is nothing to take exception to here and much to enjoy. 

Uchida and the Mozarteum Orchestra in No. 9 are conducted by the now rarely seen Jeffrey Tate. The two collaborated in a feted Mozart piano concerto edition on CD. Everything is immaculate and polished. Uchida’s face is largely expressionless but communicates with classical poise. A lively impulse runs away with Uchida at times in what is a truly virtuosic performance. No. 12 is also a little charmer with Ashkenazy as soloist and conductor. All proceeds with excitement and what we hear is full of delightful touches. This is a more full-lipped romantic approach against the sparer yet not unemotional Uchida. It is entirely in keeping that Ashkenazy directs the orchestra with typically extravagant gestures. The intimate venue is Hampton Court Palace.
No. 26 features Homero Francesch with that seasoned conductor Gerd Albrecht. It’s a performance of delicate music-box precision that, while sensitive to the darker facets, never loses touch with the precise even in the more Beethovenian storms.
Numbers 1 and 4 are heard in very ‘centred’ and natural performances from a young pianist I had never previously heard or heard of: Heidrun Holtmann. It’s all eminently musical and sane, both aurally and visually. The second movement of No. 4 struck me as surprisingly romantic and has both grace and emotional depth. These two were recorded in Mantua. Kocsis and Bělohlávek are excellent in K488 and put on a fair old sprint in the finale. In K491 - a personal favourite of mine - Previn does an Ashkenazy. He stands, at first, to conduct when not engaged at the keyboard. At times he remains seated at the piano stool, occasionally playing and conducting with a single hand. The romantic damask of this luminous score is strongly brought out. Previn offers genial encouragement to the orchestra. This is very much about easeful and confident enjoyment and participation. Especially enjoyable are the delightful thickets of woodwind writing. Previn’s cadenzas are wholly concordant with Mozart’s writing.
No. 6 is played by another pianist of whom we hear far too little these days: Christian Zacharias. Here the music flows, lithe and touchingly felt, with a very tender andante and a finale in which joy is patent. This is irrepressible music-making suffused with smiles. Radu Lupu has never exactly flooded the catalogue with recordings so it is good to see him in the clean lines of the Sofiensaal in No. 19. The small orchestra is one of the smallest to date. There’s none of the showman about Lupu and his face remains largely impassive and dignified. He imparts an almost Brahmsian effect in the tuttis of the finale.
No. 20 is given in the splendour of the Rittersaal. The dark confidings or conspiracies of the music place it in touch with the world of No. 24. The orchestra sounds big. Ivan Klánský is at the other pole from Lupu and Uchida. His sense of concentration is evident and his expressions unfeigningly map the emotions engaged. Wreathed smiles are very much to fore with delight and determination at play across his face. In the finale we can appreciate the urgent shadows in the music. Once again we see a lot of Klánský who gives every appearance of being caught in a lancing beam of sunshine pouring down blessings. His broad George Formby grin is irresistible. Here is a pianist in animated and ecstatic communion with Mozart. Klánský provides his own cadenzas. We need to hear and see more from him. 
Malcolm Frager is another veteran pianist - well experienced and with a discreet smile. I recal his involvement in various Weber projects. He is joined for No. 5 by the young Marc Andreae on the podium. Like Klánský, Frager is quietly pleasing to watch. Andreae lays down his baton for the broad middle movement but resumes it for a finale where the ‘sewing machine’ tendencies of the music are matched with tenderness. Zacharias is back for No. 8. Gelmetti conducts and with considerable animation. Some fanciful Mozartean touches mark this out as a work of genial originality.
In No. 15 the pianist is Dezső Ránki with Tate and the ECO at the Schönbrunn Palace. The setting is darkish, subdued. In the joyous second movement the masterly transitions are timely and ineluctably judged. For No. 27 we remain in the Schönbrunn with Previn conducting the RPO and a young pianist I had not heard of before now, Aleksandar Madžar. He plays, often eyes closed, like a more possessed Klánský with a mind laid bare by the face and by the sway of the torso. This is not a pianist who models himself on the distanced Lupu or the super-cool Frager. The first movement declares this to be amongst the most legato of readings, speaking with crystalline sweetness. 24 is to 27 as dark is to light.
Throughout these four discs the picture is very agreeably clear. All the liner-notes are by Jeremy Siepmann and are in English with German and French translations. 

This is a feast for the ears and eyes.  

Rob Barnett 

See also reviews of earlier releases of individual discs: Disc 1 ~~ Disc 3 ~~ Disc 4

Masterwork Index: Mozart piano concertos

Full Track-Listings

DVD 1 
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major, K271 "Jeunehomme"
Mitsuko Uchida (piano)
Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg
Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K414
Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major, K537 'Coronation'
Homero Francesch (piano)
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie
DVD 2 
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F major, K37
Heidrun Holtmann (piano)
Orchestra della Radiotelevisione della Svizzera Italiana/Marc Andreae
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, K41
Heidrun Holtmann (piano)
Orchestra della Radiotelevisione della Svizzera Italiana/Marc Andreae
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K488
Zoltán Kocsis (piano)
Virtuosi di Praga/ Jiří Bělohlávek
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K491
André Previn (piano & conductor)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
DVD 3 
Piano Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, K238
Christian Zacharias (piano)
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra/Gianluigi Gelmetti
rec. Schwetzingen Palace, 29 May 1989
Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K459
Radu Lupu (piano)
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie/David Zinman
rec. Sophiensaal, Munich, 12 July 1990
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466
Ivan Klánský (piano)
Virtuosi di Praga/ Jiří Bělohlávek
rec. Rittersaal of Palais Waldstein, 19-20 November 1990
Piano Concerto No. 5 in D major, K175
Malcolm Frager (Steinway piano)
Orchestra della Radiotelevisione della Svizzera Italiana/Marc Andreae
rec. Teatro Bibiena, Mantua, Italy, 19 April 1989
DVD 4 
Piano Concerto No. 8 in C major, K246 "Lützow"
Christian Zacharias (piano)
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart/Gianluigi Gelmetti
rec. Schwetzingen Palace, Schwetzingen, Germany, 17 May 1989
Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K453
Dezsö Ránki (Steinway piano w/o lid)
English Chamber Orchestra/Jeffrey Tate
rec. Imperial Palace of Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria, 15 November 1990
Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K595
Aleksandar Madžar (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/André Previn
rec. Imperial Palace of Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria, 29 November 1990