Piano Concerto No.25 in C, K503
Piano Concerto No.23 in A, K488
Rudolf Buchbinder (fortepiano)
Concentus Musicus Wien
Recorded 7-11 June 2012 in the Musikverein, Vienna
CD No: SONY CLASSICAL 88765409042 Duration: 56 minutes Reviewed: January 2013
Rudolf Buchbinder & Nikolaus Harnoncourt – Mozart Piano Concertos K488 & K503 [Concentus Musicus Wien; Sony Classical]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
The tangy timbres of Concentus Musicus Wien, willed on by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, trumpets and drums offering crisp celebration, bring a sense of joy to the majestic introduction to the C major Piano Concerto (placed first on the disc), one of Mozart’s greatest achievements. When Rudolf Buchbinder enters it is on a fortepiano built by Paul McNulty after a 1792 model by Anton Walter. He plays with crisp delight, although the instrument’s sound, however pellucid, doesn’t quite match the colours and dynamism of the vivid details of the orchestra. Nevertheless, Buchbinder’s scholarly and affectionate approach, together with the rapport between all the musicians, makes for enlivening listening. In the first movement of K503 Buchbinder offers his own cadenza, a stylish and quite grand affair. The following Andante is sweetly confidential, and the finale, moderately paced to advantage, enjoys some expressive hesitations and sentient turns of phrase as well as some Buchbinder-added notes. While not really competing with the greatest version of K503, another Vienna-based liaison – Friedrich Gulda with Claudio Abbado and the Philharmoniker (on Deutsche Grammophon) – this historically-informed but not pedantic reading is certainly interesting on its own terms.
The A major Piano Concerto is elegantly turned (including old-fashioned trills), with time given for intimate expression, although, and to a greater extent than in K503, although the orchestra is always accommodating of the pianist when accompanying, away from that role it seems too loud and can arrive with a jolt, not that Harnoncourt is shy of dynamic variety reaching the quieter end of the scale. Another doubt confirms itself with the slow movement, that the fortepiano doesn’t allow either the shapeliest or the most-sustained phrasing – the nature of the beast, of course – although it further suggests that being ‘authentic’ is one thing, but moving forward in design and ambition, as instruments did, is another, while taking this music with them. The finale, however, sparkles with bonhomie. The recording – made at concerts with hardly a trace of an audience either during or after the performances – closely observes the musicians to tangible effect.