Piano Concertos Nos 17 & 23, K. 453 & K. 488
Ben Kim (piano); Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra/Michael Waterman
Challenge Classics CC72816 56.16 mins
There is an agenda to these performances. In his introductory notes Ben Kim states that he intends to ‘mimic’ the sound of the pianoforte of Mozart’s day. In addition to his solo role Kim jointly directs the orchestra with its leader, Michael Waterman, placing the players close to the piano to facilitate direct eye contact. This being the case, it seems a little strange that he, as soloist, does not provide a continuo accompaniment during the orchestral passages, as would surely have happened with Mozart directing.
There is a strong sense of ensemble and some marvellously fresh playing even if the recorded sound is a little close. Interaction between the piano and the various parts of the orchestra is impressive. At times, however, Kim’s crisp piano playing tips over into being brittle, even occasionally mechanical especially in the outer movements of both concertos. More reticence and a more consciously expressive approach to interpretation would have greatly benefited a recording that offers considerable rewards. These are not subtle performances, but they have a buoyancy that will appeal to many. Those in search of a more richly textured rendition of K488 directed from the keyboard should try Mitsuko Uchida with the Cleveland Orchestra. Jan Smaczny