Piano Concertos Nos 20 & 25; Rondo in A minor, K511
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra/Jeremy Denk (piano)
Nonesuch 7559791687 69:33 mins
In a lengthy programme note, Jeremy Denk offers a very personal description of each work’s narrative, albeit with solid technical information. The performances themselves avoid self-indulgence, yet there’s plenty of engagement and affection. No. 25’s opening tutti immediately establishes clean lines and a sense of purpose. Denk picks up the mood, and is alert its sometimes mercurial changes of direction. His rubato, usually tasteful, is stretched a bit in the Andante, perhaps owing to the spontaneity of the live recording; but the blended sound of soloist and orchestra reinforces its warm character. We’re back to clarity and momentum in the finale, which makes a striking contrast with the beautifully expressed combination of wistfulness and hope in the solo A minor Rondo.
That makes an effective buffer before the turbulent opening of the D minor Concerto, whose syncopations gain menace through their precision and attack. I’d prefer a firmer backbone of pulse in the ‘Romance’, but there’s some lovely wind playing, especially in the violent minor section. The Rondo also doesn’t quite keep steady, which detracts at times from its inexorable progress, although the major-key ending is well-earned.