Mozart: Piano Concertos: No. 20 in D minor, K466; No. 27 in B flat, K595

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Concertos: No. 20 in D minor, K466; No. 27 in B flat, K595
PERFORMER: Cleveland Orchestra/ Mitsuko Uchida (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 478 2596

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Most people play the D minor Concerto, K466 as though it were at least partially by Beethoven – the emphasis falling primarily on turbulence and intensity, haunted throughout by the shadow of fate. Few would dispute that this is Mozart’s most dramatic concerto, and Beethoven himself provided the cadenzas which most pianists use.

Mitsuko Uchida doesn’t neglect any of this, but where others opt for Beethovenian struggle, she conveys, to a degree unmatched in my experience, a sense of sorrow, an almost harrowing sadness, underlining the tragedy of the work without vitiating its drama. This she does with a probing subtlety that defies concise description and sets this interpretation apart from any other known to me. 

Despite its overall excellence, however, I felt intermittently disappointed by the B flat Concerto, K595, where, to my ears, the subtlety and variety (indeed the profundity) of the D minor performance yield to a surprisingly angular approach.

This is emphasised, among other ways, by an excessively prominent sense of duple time which undermines the suppleness and momentum of Mozart’s vocally-inspired melody. I also find an underlying air of contrivance (largely if not quite entirely missing from K466), with a lesser degree of naturalness and spontaneous conversation. There are also certain minor yet distracting inconsistencies of tempo, particularly in the slow movement. 

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Clifford Curzon, by contrast, combines matchless sophistication and unalloyed simplicity with an intimate poignancy beyond compare. Jeremy Siepmann