Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K453; Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K467

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WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K453; Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K467
PERFORMER: Maria João Pires (piano); CO of Europe/Claudio Abbado
The combination of Abbado and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe has to be my dream ticket for modern-instrument Mozart. The qualities are irresistible: cultured, characterful woodwind playing (so important in Mozart piano concertos), an expert string section which carries no passengers, and an alertness of response to a conductor who, with years of experience in this repertoire, nevertheless shows no sign of going stale. Maria João Pires is an excellent partner in all this: her stylistic approach is similar, in that she also favours a light touch, but there is no danger of over-preciousness. The expressive Andante in K453 – one of the first of Mozart’s slow movements to make a major feature of the woodwind section – is done especially well, as is the bustling Haydnesque finale; indeed, the orchestra’s articulation of the Presto coda is quite breathtaking. The C major Concerto, K467, is, of course, among Mozart’s best-known works in any form. Abbado and Pires take the work at face value: clipped and martial in the first movement, perfectly poised in the central Andante, and fast but clean in the good-natured finale. Both works were recorded in the Teatro Comunale in Ferrara, though only K453 was recorded live. But there is no perceptible difference in sound; indeed the production values throughout are well up to DG’s high standards.