Mozart: Piano Concertos: No. 13 in C, K415; No. 24 in C minor, K491

LABELS: PentaTone
WORKS: Piano Concertos: No. 13 in C, K415;
No. 24 in C minor, K491
PERFORMER: Martin Helmchen (piano);
Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/Gordan Nikolic (violin)


It was a bold gesture on the part of the talented German pianist Martin Helmchen to make his recording debut with two of Mozart’s piano concertos, particularly when so many other performers in the same situation would have opted for less mainstream repertory. But Helmchen’s decision is strongly vindicated by performances that show him to be a highly sensitive performer with a wonderfully limpid piano tone almost ideal for Mozart.

I say almost ideal because there are times where I feel Helmchen could be bolder and present a stronger characterisation of the music. This is particularly the case in the Finale of the C minor Concerto with its striking contrasts of mood that range from the melancholic to the defiant. In the recent live recording on EMI from Kissin and LSO under Sir Colin Davis (reviewed in September), these elements are projected with greater definition and dramatic incisiveness. Nonetheless Helmchen’s more introspective approach may be preferred by some, the expansive and leisurely first movement offering a less obvious anticipation of Beethovenian storm and stress than is the case with Kissin and others such as Barenboim.

Helmchen gives a lovely fluid performance of the C major Concerto with some marvellous touches of gentle humour in the Finale. The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra under Gordon Nikolic are not quite as vivid and insightful in the orchestral tuttis as was the case with the old Decca recording with Sándor Végh and Mozarteum Orchestra partnering András Schiff at the piano, but there are some beautifully articulated accompaniments, the string tone suitably lean in quality. All in all, this is a highly promising and beautifully recorded disc.


Erik Levi