Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat, K482; Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K488

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LABELS: Profil
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat, K482; Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K488
PERFORMER: Vienna SO/Rudolf Buchbinder (piano)
These latest performances in Rudolf Buchbinder’s Mozart cycle are something of a mixed bag. Certainly, Buchbinder doesn’t seem to be at all attuned to the demonic side of Mozart: his account of the D minor Concerto, K466, seriously lacks drama and tension, and in Beethoven’s big first-movement cadenza he’s so laid back that the piece almost grinds to a halt. The main theme of the slow movement finds him unwilling to play a simple melody without pulling it about mercilessly, while the turbulent middle section barely ruffles the music’s surface. For a performance that really communicates urgency, try the classic Decca recording by Clifford Curzon with the ECO under Britten, or the young Evgeni Kissin with the Moscow Virtuosi (RCA). Fortunately, Buchbinder is vastly better in the remaining three concertos. It’s true that the melancholy melody of the slow movement in K488 again falls prey to excessive rubato, but there’s generally a good deal more to enjoy than to carp at. In the slow middle section of K482’s finale, Buchbinder’s idea of using a solo string quartet enhances the music’s serenade character; and he finds just the right tempo for the middle movement – which is so often treated as an Adagio rather than an Andante. Mind you, Britten’s performance on BBC Legends – this time with Sviatoslav Richter – is even more flowing, and manages paradoxically to get much closer to the heart of the music’s tragedy. It’s worth remembering that the same four concertos are available on a fine bargain-price double-CD album by Annie Fischer with the Philharmonia under Boult and Sawallisch. (Fischer uses Busoni’s cadenza for K467 – almost as much of an acquired taste as Britten’s for K482.) The works are similarly paired, too, in the recordings by András Schiff with the Salzburg Camerata Academica under Sándor Végh – sparkling performances that are hard to resist. Misha Donat