Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor, K466
Piano Concerto No.15 in B flat, K450
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano)
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Antoine de Bavier
Recorded 11 July 1956 at Ludwigsburg Festival
Reviewed by: Lewis Jones
Reviewed: August 2013
CD No: ICA CLASSICS ICAC 5103
Duration: 54 minutes
You can’t miss that these performances are on compact disc for the first time! Whether Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920-95) was “legendary” (another presentational point) or not, this release preserves some impressive Mozart readings from him, maybe from a time when he was less clinical and aloof than he seemed to become. He was always a great technician and his command of the piano and the music is never in doubt here.
In the D minor work, following an intense orchestral introduction, Michelangeli proves to be a dynamic host of the solo part, and there is some notable interaction between the pianist and the orchestra. Little seems known about Antoine de Bavier, save that he was a clarinettist who became a conductor, and was encouraged by Furtwängler so to do, and he clearly fires-up the Stuttgart orchestra while maintaining a meaningful dialogue with Michelangeli. The pianist plays Beethoven’s cadenza in the first movement and does so with power and precision. Maybe the slow movement plods too slowly, certainly in relation to the ‘authentic’ way of doing things, but there is much feeling here, and the finale is dispatched with controlled resolve.
There is much to admire in this particular evaluation of this grand and tragic piece, a very ‘finished’ account that compels attention, and that is also the case for what might be thought the slighter B flat Piano Concerto, although this has many charms and witticisms. Michelangeli and his partners take the music seriously and lavish as much attention on it as they do the dark D minor. Certainly the opening movement is brilliant at this swift but not rushed tempo, the music having an outdoors suggestion, but there’s depth too, as the song-like slow movement displays. The finale is witty and jaunty (I have long loved Leonard Bernstein’s Vienna recording of this concerto for Decca) and memorably completes a release that fans of Michelangeli will surely want.
Anyone finding this Italian pianist too imperious in his later concerts and recordings may be pleasantly surprised with the humanity that is evident here but without any sacrifice to his technical address or personal observances. This is all about outstanding facility and probing intellect serving the core of the music.