WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Capriccio brillant
PERFORMER: London Mozart Players/Howard Shelley
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9215 DDD
There’s nothing much wrong with Shelley’s playing here, or with that of the LMP, who accompany with finesse and style, but there is a raggedness in places which an independent conductor would have ironed out. And there, I think, the problem lies. Without a guiding hand on the podium, giving undivided attention to shaping and ensemble, there’s an element of tentativeness in the orchestra. Some entries sound nervous, and punctuating chords accompanying the piano tend to be a whisker late, as if soloist and orchestra are listening to each other instead of thinking the music through together. The rather resonant acoustic of St Silas Church, Kentish Town, London, doesn’t help; in some of the softer passages the orchestra almost disappears. The most convincing moments are those where the pianist is unaccompanied or the orchestra is playing on its own.
Maybe I’m dwelling unfairly on the negative aspects, for there’s a happy swing to the quicker movements and the slower ones are truly Romantic, the cello theme in the Andante of the First Concerto delivered with an incandescent glow. But the performance would have benefited if one of Chandos’s regular conductors (Richard Hickox, perhaps?) had been at the helm. Wadham Sutton