ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos. 17 & 20
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano & conductor); Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto Exton
CATALOGUE NO: OVCL-00170 (hybrid CD/SACD)
In contrast to his earlier Mozart piano concerto cycle for Decca, Vladimir Ashkenazy seems to be working with a smaller-sized orchestra for these performances recorded live in the Wiener Konzerthaus in October 2003. Yet there is no obvious attempt to scale down the character of his playing since the piano tone remains warm and forwardly projected with a surprisingly prominent left hand even in some accompanying passagework. Such qualities may appear appropriate for interpreting the D minor Concerto. Yet the performance doesn’t have sufficient light and shade in places, so that for example the sudden change to the major key at the end of the Finale fails to deliver the kind of emotional release that is implied in the music. The second movement Romanze is also a little ponderous, particularly in the middle section where once again the prominent left hand is too relentless.
Ironically, the G major Concerto, which on the face of it requires a much lighter touch than the D minor, comes off far more convincingly. There is some lovely interaction between piano and woodwind in the outer movements and the slow movement is both delicate and expressive. The SACD recording, however, is curiously balanced in places with the wind not always coming through the texture as transparently as one might expect – a flaw that undermines in particular the impact of some of the variations in the Finale.
For an alternative coupling of these two concertos Piotr Anderszewski and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on Virgin Classics are on a par with Ashkenazy in the G major, but deliver far greater variety of expression and incisiveness in the D minor. Erik Levi