Mozart – Piano Concertos Volume 5

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WORKS: Piano Concertos in C, KV246; in A, KV488; in D, KV175
PERFORMER: Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne/Christian Zacharias (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 940 1562-6 (hybrid CD/SACD)


The D major Piano Concerto, K175, was Mozart’s first work of its kind (his earlier pasticcio concertos were all arrangements of sonata movements by other composers) – a grandly-conceived piece, with trumpets and drums. Mozart later replaced its last movement with a more easy-going variation-cum-rondo finale, though Christian Zacharias does not include it as an alternative here. 

The Concerto K246 is less ambitious, and the comparative simplicity of its piano part is explained by the fact that it was composed for an amateur player (Countess Lützow, the wife of the commander of the Salzburg fortress). Zacharias plays both these concertos pleasantly enough, but without injecting a great deal of personality into his performances: it all sounds rather as though he’s treading on eggshells. These pieces sparkle much more in the hands of András Schiff, with the help of the inspired conducting of Sandor Végh (on Decca 448 1402, though currently only available as a special import).  


Zacharias is on much more familiar ground with the great A major Concerto K488, and it shows. In the outer movements the music really springs to life, and the elegant playing of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra comes into its own. So far, so good; but the slow movement is one of Mozart’s great tragic utterances, and the only genuine Adagio to be found among his solo piano concertos. Zacharias opts for a tempo that’s a touch more flowing than usual, and his playing is decidedly on the cool side, never quite capturing the music’s sense of profound melancholy, or its subdued passion. Misha Donat