WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor K491; Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major K503
PERFORMER: Daniel Barenboim (piano/director)Berlin PO
CATALOGUE NO: 9031-75715-2 DDD
These recordings of Mozart’s last four piano concertos afford a tonal richness that is beginning to sound dated, even in relation to other modern-instrument performances, but which may have its own attraction. The slow movements tend more towards sentiment than charm, and (notably in K595) the sound is subdivided into four where Mozart’s time-signature suggests two minim beats. Several tempi are a shade deliberate, notably the first movements of K537 and K595; the latter seems to fall into discrete sections of slower tempo and occasional flurries of acceleration, and only midway are its ideas integrated into a proper flow. However, I have no quarrel with the vigorous performances of K491 and K503.
The playing is, needless to say, of the highest calibre. The orchestra sounds lovely, if a bit over-bassed, and the recordings are well balanced. Barenboim surely has all the necessary expertise to direct and perform simultaneously, but a few harsh accents perhaps designed to help ensemble may disconcert in K537. Barenboim’s cadenzas (where none by Mozart are available) are unappealing — heavy with counterpoint in the otherwise enjoyable K491, and using heavy humour in K537 which threatens to become a Figaro medley.
Nevertheless, the general impression is of Mozart aspiring to become Beethoven, and if that is your preference, these recordings may suit you, but I shall return to Brendel with Marriner and Uchida with Tate for my pleasure. Julian Rushton