LABELS: C Major DVD
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven • Mozart • Schubert
WORKS: Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1; Schubert: Symphony No. 5; Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat, K482
PERFORMER: Cappella Andrea Barca/ András Schiff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 736508; Blu-ray: 736604
In the gorgeous surroundings of the Great Hall of the Salzburg Mozarteum, a hall so beautiful that it’s almost hard to concentrate on the music, Sir András last year directed from the keyboard this concert of two great concertos and a slender symphony. Schiff doesn’t conduct sitting at the keyboard, the usual procedure, but stands up and gesticulates, then niftily re-seats himself and continues playing. I found I didn’t get any further pleasure from watching him or his orchestra, a small but surprisingly grand-sounding body. Schiff, in his dark suit, with waistcoat and watch chain, looks more like an old-style businessman than a conductor, though perhaps that shouldn’t matter.
I did find, however, that he tended to give and conduct grand performances of the two concertos, and a lightweight account of Schubert’s delightful Fifth Symphony between them. Somehow that seemed to diminish Schubert, if only though its complete lack of individuality (the performance’s, not the work’s). There is an element of the standard product about the whole concert – not aided by Schiff’s playing of Beethoven’s excruciatingly long and tiresome cadenza in the first movement of his great First Concerto. That music is so bad that only the conceit of performers can make them play it.
These works are all so familiar that a further issue of them is only justified if it adds something to the already distinguished and immense number of available accounts – this one doesn’t.