Mozart: Piano Concertos: No. 20 in D minor, K466; No. 27 in B flat, K595
It’s one of Evgeny Kissin’s most stimulating virtues that he doesn’t deal in generalities. He seems more interested in individual works than in preconceived notions about their composers. Though he takes care to be well informed, his performances derive ultimately from the music itself.
We think we’re familiar with his Chopin – in reality, we are familiar with his Chopins. His Mozart, on the other hand, has been pretty much an unknown quantity – his only previous Mozartian excursion, an outstanding release, dates from 1992. Interestingly, that too included the D minor Concerto. There the conductor was Vladimir Spivakov. Here, making his recording debut as a conductor, Kissin is in sole charge.
His accounts of the two concertos are surprisingly different. The D minor has its moments but is beset by a rhythmic heaviness in which a paucity of contrast too often obscures the interplay of foreground and background that gives Mozart’s music so much of its operatic vitality.
One doesn’t expect Kissin to chug, yet things like the excessively notey, motoric accompaniments in K466 are more redolent of Prokofiev or Bartók than of Mozartian grace. The piano tone, too, is predominantly heavy and opaque, the last thing one associates with this artist. Equally virile but far less contrived is the classic Alfred Brendel/Neville Marriner account on Philips, whose naturalness is matched by unsurpassed authority.
The B flat Concerto sounds like a different musician. Lyrical, lively, texturally translucent and rhythmically buoyant, Kissin here conveys that elusive universality that makes Mozart unique in history. Jeremy Siepmann