Mozart Piano Concertos Nos 23 & 35
Anyone wanting evidence of the quality of the period instruments produced by Paul McNulty should listen to this CD featuring a fortepiano he has created after a 1792 instrument by Anton Walter. It has none of the usual fortepiano boxiness: the tone is warm, full, and even from top to bottom, which makes it ideal for the purposes of Rudolf Buchbinder and Nikolaus Harnoncourt in this live recording of a concert they gave in Vienna’s Musikverein last year. The story behind this event goes back to the 1960s, when Harnoncourt and his Concentus Musicus colleagues discovered fresh soundworlds by using a Walter keyboard for Mozart’s chamber music. They knew Buchbinder as a pianist, but discovered only latterly that he was also a fan of historic pianos. This CD represents the fruit of that discovery.
If the miking initially makes the soloist sound like a dainty voice in the distance, the balance is soon righted, and with superb results. The detail of Buchbinder’s passagework is translucent. The fast movements have measured grace, the slow ones are exquisite: I have seldom encountered such luminous beauty in the tender Adagio of K488, much enhanced by this period orchestra’s fine performance. No trace of vanity or self-projection from either soloist or conductor: exemplary.