Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466; Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K491

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466; Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K491
PERFORMER: Alfred Brendel (piano); Scottish CO/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: 462 622-2
In the 19th century, when most of Mozart’s great piano concertos lay unperformed and forgotten, the two overtly impassioned works in the minor never lost their appeal. Beethoven’s admiration for them was unbounded, and for the D minor, K466, he supplied his own cadenzas which have almost become an accepted part of the work. But Beethoven’s cadenza for the final rondo is less than wholly convincing, and some pianists – Curzon and Goode among them – have preferred to go their own way. Brendel actually plays his own cadenzas for both outer movements, and very fine they are, too. This is an altogether compelling performance, with an intense, if melancholic view of the opening Allegro; and a delightfully lilting account of the central Romance, with Mozart’s sometimes skeletal melodic and harmonic line stylishly filled in. Brendel’s flowing tempo means, too, that the stormy middle section can erupt without the need for an increase in the music’s pulse-rate.

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No less impressive is the C minor Concerto, with an urgent, thrusting account of the opening movement, and a view of the finale which allows for welcome flexibility of tempo between successive variations. These deeply satisfying performances, greatly aided by the incisive contribution of the SCO under Mackerras, cannot be recommended too highly. There is, of course, no single authoritative way of playing these many-faceted masterpieces – nor even any such thing as a ‘best’ version. As benchmarks I list a performance of each concerto that has given me considerable pleasure over the years. Misha Donat