WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor; Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor; Capriccio brillant, Op. 22
PERFORMER: Howard Shelley (piano/director)London Mozart Players
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9215 DDD
There’s nothing much wrong with Shelley’s playing here, or with that of the London Mozart Players, who accompany with finesse and style, but there is 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 orchestral playing. Some entries sound nervous, and punctuating chords accompanying the piano tend to be a little 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, doesn’t help; in some of the softer passages the orchestra almost disappears. On the whole, 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 of these performances, 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 is delivered with an incandescent glow. But the performance would have gained if one of Chandos’s regular conductors (Richard Hickox, perhaps) had been at the helm. Wadham Sutton