Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 24 & 25 (Ben Kim)
Ben Kim (piano); Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra (Challenge Classics)
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K491; Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, K503
Ben Kim (piano); Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra
Challenge Classics CC 72935 64:43 mins
Some time ago, a controversy blew up around ‘world music’ and the way western artists were incorporating far-flung cultural influences into their own work. The two camps could be summarised as ‘hybrid’s wrong’ and ‘hybrid’s fine’. The same applies to historical and modern performance. Do you need all or nothing? Or are you happy with an approximation of ‘Historically Informed Performance’ on modern instruments? Well, it depends how it’s done. With this account of two ubiquitous Mozart concertos, the result, unfortunately, is not always the best of both worlds.
Ben Kim’s concept is fine in principle: he has said, with the earlier volume in this series, that he’s setting out to incorporate qualities of the fortepiano into playing Mozart on the modern grand. In practice, however, this can prove frustrating. His touch is chiefly non-legato, supposedly to replicate the sound of an earlier instrument. Yet people can, and do, play wonderfully legato on a fortepiano (try Kristian Bezuidenhout or Robert Levin). The finest qualities of Mozart’s piano – such as a bright, silvery tone and distinctly different characters in each register – are not inherent in today’s instruments. But they have their own marvellous qualities, which in this account go largely unexploited.
There’s a similar issue with the orchestra. The Concertgebouw is one of the most plush and distinctive of all international forces, yet with HIP non-vibrato and tapered-phrasing tropes imposed, its chamber offshoot sounds discomfitingly stodgy.