Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K.459; Rondo in A major, K. 386; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K. 595
Francesco Piemontesi (piano); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Andrew Manze
Linn CKD622 67:10 mins
Mozart’s piano concertos are an endless fount of joy, and expectations run high for this team of perfectionist pianist and UK stars. Up to a point these are indeed fine performances: a brisk K459, a laid-back K595, and a rare chance to hear the A major Rondo K386 in between. Francesco Piemontesi pays avid attention to the tonal calibration of every note and phrase. Andrew Manze matches him by controlling the orchestral balance to a T and choosing tempos that suit the music without having to reinvent the wheel. The orchestral playing is precise and fashionably lean. The recorded sound quality is excellent.
So far, so correct: in these interpretations every t is crossed, every i dotted and the renditions are respectful, accurate and sober. Yet if you like your Mozart subtle and flexible, with an undertow of Così fan tutte sensuality, this may not be entirely your Kaffee und Kuchen. Piemontesi’s playing is pure of sound, elegant of phrase-turn and exquisitely caligraphic; but in the orchestral tuttis contrasts and voicing are perhaps somewhat undercharacterised, with a limited range of dynamic definition. The whole occasionally gives the impression of steaming relentlessly up the middle lane, and if you want an extra dose of ebb, flow, wit, soul and sparkle you may find yourself tailgating them and tempted occasionally to hoot. Exactitude is fine, but the breath of life comes from other places. Go back to the 20-something Daniel Barenboim’s early recordings with the English Chamber Orchestra to see what I mean.