Haydn, Mozart: Piano Concertos, K453, K482, K503 & K595; Rondo in D, K382

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Haydn,Mozart
LABELS: Vox
WORKS: Piano Concertos, K453, K482, K503 & K595; Rondo in D, K382
PERFORMER: Alfred Brendel (piano); Vienna CO, Vienna Volksoper Orchestra, Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra/Paul Angerer
CATALOGUE NO: CDX 5180 Reissue (1961-7)
As Bryce Morrison explains in his introduction to these discs, Brendel himself does not really rate his early recordings. That is not to say that the rest of us can’t enjoy them, and there is much about these Mozart (and briefly Haydn) performances from the late Fifties and early Sixties that gives great pleasure. No doubt Brendel’s interpretations have acquired greater depth over the intervening decades, but these performances still bear some of his distinctive fingerprints: absolute fidelity to the score and a touching humility.

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Pianistically there are pearly clarity and some gorgeous legatos – that also goes for Walter Klien, a well-matched partner for Brendel in the Sonata for Two Pianos. Not all the concertos have survived with sound quality truly intact – ageing recorded oboes never sound particularly nice – and some of the speeds, notably the central movement of K459, will sound plodding to ears more used to the train-catching tempi of period orchestras.

Faithful and humble they may be, but I can’t help feeling that a certain over-careful joylessness hangs over everything. There isn’t much evidence of Brendel’s famous advocacy of humour in music in any of the Mozart; the Haydn D major Concerto fares better.

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Jessica Duchen