Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat, K482; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K595

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: MDG Gold
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat, K482; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K595
PERFORMER: Lausanne CO/Christian Zacharias (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 340 1182-2
Christian Zacharias’s approach to these concertos has changed little from when he made his EMI recordings (differently coupled) in the Eighties. He even reproduces his own eccentric cadenza in the first movement of K482, complete with woodwind interpolations. As ever his piano playing is distinguished by limpid tone, graceful phrasing and pearly articulation in semiquaver passagework. His rapport with the cultivated Lausanne Chamber Orchestra (violins properly divided left and right) is ideally close; and he stylishly, if modestly, decorates Mozart’s spare lines (in the Larghetto of K595, for example) and provides apt mini-cadenzas at fermatas.

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Tempi, too, seem ideally chosen, with both slow movements kept well flowing; and balance and recorded sound are first-rate. But while it is hard not to enjoy these performances, I do wish Zacharias had risked a wider range of colour and expression. He certainly catches the regretful undertones in the rondo of K595. But here and in the more boisterous ‘hunting’ finale of K482, the delicate articulation and exquisitely moulded phrases can tame the music’s natural verve and brio. Parts of K482’s first movement, too, seem almost dainty; and with his carefully circumscribed dynamic range and over-fondness for diminuendos at the end of phrases, Zacharias underplays the passion in the central variation of the C minor Andante.

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Rival recordings are, of course, legion. Murray Perahia (Sony) in both concertos and Emil Gilels (DG) in K595 both provide richer, more complex experiences than Zacharias, while for a coupling of these particular works you won’t do better than Alfred Brendel’s wise, witty, essentially Classical readings with Charles Mackerras. Richard Wigmore