Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 17 & 20

LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Piano Concertos Nos 17 & 20
PERFORMER: Norwegian CO/Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Virgin 500 2812
In Leif Ove Andsnes’s hands the D minor Concerto K466 is every bit as demonic as it ought to be, and he’s greatly helped by fine playing from the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, with its trumpets cutting through the texture to thrilling effect. The slow movement finds Andsnes decorating the solo line tastefully, and adopting a tempo that’s flowing enough to allow the dramatic middle section to erupt at a pace that matches that of the movement’s calm main theme. By contrast, Andsnes takes a surprisingly lightweight view of the G major Concerto K453. He gives the slow movement’s opening bars to a group of solo strings – a nice touch, since their material sounds curiously detached from the remainder of the piece each time it returns – but his swift tempo, coupled with the curiously heavy tread of the strings accompanying the lyrical wind ensemble that follows, robs the music of serenity. The finale, too – at least until its opera buffa-style coda – is unusually quick. Its opening theme needs to be taken at a jaunty Allegretto (Mozart was delighted when he found a pet starling that could reproduce its ‘chirping’ notes), so that the following variations don’t degenerate, as they do here, into a virtuoso dash.As a single-disc alternative coupling the same two works, Piotr Anderszewski’s with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is an attractive proposition. Anderszewski may not generate quite as much tension as Andsnes in the opening movement of K466, but his performances are thoroughly rewarding.