Mozart: The Mozart Album

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: The Mozart Album
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 17 & 24; Piano Sonatas Nos 4, 5 & 8; Piano Sonata No. 11 – Rondo all Turca; Allegro in F; March in C; Klavierstück in F
PERFORMER: Lang Lang (piano); Vienna Philharmonic/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 88843082522

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Lang Lang has described his collaboration with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Vienna Phil as a milestone in his career, and on the evidence of the two concertos here that may indeed be the case, as the fit seems just about perfect. After the orchestra has laid out the nobly spacious terrain which the C minor work will occupy, Lang Lang makes his entrance with graceful tenderness, every note eloquently weighted, each phrase measured and expressive.

There’s a new maturity in his playing as he leads the orchestra with sweet suggestiveness, both here and in the slow movement of Concerto No. 17 in G which follows, where the piano takes the orchestra into ever darker regions. And his cadenzas are models of their kind: exquisite displays of lyricism, but staying scrupulously within the bounds of Classical good taste. Lang Lang’s fulsome tribute to Harnoncourt’s artistic judgment in this magazine’s December issue suggests that – as we have seen in his chamber collaborations – he thrives best when his innate flamboyance is held in check by egos as strong as his own.

The rest of this double-CD bears that out. There are fine moments in each of the solo sonatas, and you constantly get the sense of him interrogating the scores for what they may be helped to reveal, but he has a fatal tendency to pull movements out of shape in order to create crude contrasts. The first movement of the E flat Sonata is a ponderous and schmaltzy caricature; details of the A minor’s Allegro are given grotesquely arbitrary emphasis; but the Alla Turca goes – of course! – like the wind.

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Michael Church