Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 19 in F, K459 & No. 23 in A, K488; Ch’io mi scordi di te? Non temer, amato bene, K505

WORKS: Piano Concertos No. 19 in F, K459 & No. 23 in A, K488; Ch’io mi scordi di te? Non temer, amato bene, K505
PERFORMER: Hélène Grimaud (piano), Mojca Erdmann (soprano); Chamber Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Radoslaw Szulc


Hélène Grimaud plays the fast movements of these Mozart Concertos as though she’s worried that someone, somewhere might accuse her of failing to convey sufficient rhapsodic abandon. At the beginning of Concerto No. 19, it’s something of a shock to hear the nimble playing of the Bavarian Radio Chamber Orchestra answered by such outsized energy and heavily-pedalled sonority from the conductor/soloist. Much of the time Grimaud sounds loud and showy (close microphone placement also spotlights the orchestra uncomfortably at times, and creates oddly unfocused resonance). There is no question that the music emerges vibrantly energetic. But those listeners accustomed to thinking that fine Mozart playing permits the subtle play of emotions across a poised surface will probably find that Grimaud runs roughshod over some delicious details; other pianists can make Mozart sound red-blooded without creating quite so raw and pugilistic an impression. By the time we reach the D major episode in the finale of Concerto No. 23 – often a digression into sensual lyricism, but here clattery and hard-driven – I found myself feeling browbeaten rather than exhilarated. The heavily inflected reading of the same Concerto’s Adagio wrings expression from every quaver while paradoxically falling short of the poignancy made possible by a more serene, gliding sense of continuity. Grimaud’s penchant for creative programming extends in this case to Mozart’s concert aria with piano obbligato, which is played and
sung (by soprano Mojca Erdmann) with commendably considered eloquence. Unfortunately, Grimaud’s overtly ‘exciting’ treatment of the Concertos provides a limited, one-dimensional perspective on these rich works.
David Breckbill