WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat, K482; Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K595
PERFORMER: Alfred Brendel (piano); Scottish CO/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: 468 367-2
Brendel’s Seventies recordings of the Mozart concertos with Marriner have always been among the front-runners in these inexhaustible works. The key question here, then, is how does the pianist measure up against younger self. In fundamentals, Brendel’s probing, essentially Classical view of these works has changed relatively little. There are, though, countless new subtleties of nuance and emphasis, and an even more radical approach to ornamentation – heard, for instance, in the delightfully spontaneous-sounding embellishments in K595’s Larghetto. The main 6/8 section of K482’s finale is now taken a notch more steadily; and the reprise of the bouncing rondo theme after the cadenza has a new delicacy, with a hint of wistfulness – one hallmark of Brendel’s performances is that a phrase or idea is never repeated without some new light being shed on it. A pity, though, that he dusts down the same quirkily un-Mozartian cadenzas that he composed for his 1975 version of K482.
With slightly broader tempi and more pliable phrasing than in his recording with Marriner, Brendel enhances the sense of resignation and nostalgia in K595 – even its ostensibly blithe finale – while avoiding any whiff of sentimentality. Among many other felicities, his colouring and shaping of the glorious first-movement development is unsurpassed in any performance I have heard. Mackerras and the Scottish CO accompany with style and character, and Mackerras allows his horns and (in K482) trumpets and timpani more prominence than did Marriner and the 1975 Philips engineers. The piano tone is true and rounded, though the instrument’s forward recording means that the woodwind are sometimes short-changed, especially in the wind-saturated K482. Impossible, of course, to nominate an outright winner among so many recordings of these concertos. But this new coupling is certainly up there with the likes of Schiff, Perahia, Curzon (in K595) and, of course, Brendel himself, Seventies vintage. Richard Wigmore