Mozart: Piano Concertos No.12 in A, K414; No.24 in Cminor, K491

WORKS: Piano Concertos No.12 in A, K414; No.24 in Cminor, K491
PERFORMER: Vienna PO/Maurizio Pollini
CATALOGUE NO: 477 7167
The Vienna Philharmonic’s first collaboration with Maurizio Pollini in the dual role of soloist and conductor in Mozart took place in 1981. An Andante set containing a broadcast recording of that concert reveals performances filled with spirit – in K 414 and K 449 Pollini displays a degree of detailed inventiveness unusual for him, although in K 466 the excitement of the moment trumps refinement with sweep and heat. The present disc (a second instalment in DG’s current Pollini/Vienna Mozart series, also recorded in concert) seems marginally less successful. The recorded sound maximises the VPO’s exceptionally beguiling sonority and phrasing, but it also highlights the piano, making it more relentlessly tangible and less airy than it is from Andante’s perspective. Consequently, the soloist’s hums and grunts become occasionally distracting; more damagingly, we do not hear much soft playing from Pollini – both slow movements seem a bit heavy-handed and prosaic as a result. Pollini’s most successful performances approach an awe‑inspiring ideal in which technical perfection and expressive eloquence amount to the same thing, but that kind of glacial abstraction is not a spirit he seems adept at maintaining when performing in public (particularly not when he is also conducting). Consequently, his playing here, though admirably energetic and involved in its way, attains neither Pollini’s optimal sheen nor the detailed wit, sensitivity, and imagination that animate Murray Perahia (in K 414) and, especially, Clifford Curzon, whose numerous recordings of the C minor Concerto offer much more comprehensive characterizations of this great work.