Maurizio Pollini – Mozart Piano Concertos (K414 & K491)

0 of 5 stars

Piano Concerto No.12 in A, K414
Piano Concerto No.24 in C minor, K491

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Maurizio Pollini (piano)

Recorded June 2007 in the Grosser Saal of the Musikverein, Vienna

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: May 2008
CD No: DG 477 7167
Duration: 55 minutes



Maurizio Pollini is slowly catching up with Mozart’s piano concertos in recorded terms (although at one stage, quite a few years ago, he played only six of them). This release follows one coupling the G major (K453) and C major (K467) concertos – DG 477 579 – and this time contrasts major- and minor-key works, one of Mozart’s most urbane pieces with one of his darkest.

The introduction to the delightful A major piece sets an admirable tone – springy rhythms and melodies shaped with affection, the orchestra recorded closely enough to be tangible yet set back enough to be a part of the generous acoustic. Pollini’s first entry is poised and there is also a sparkle in his fingers. This is not lightweight Mozart, though, for although the music has its frothy aspects, Pollini is not one to pass over depths, but his mining of them is not sign-posted and the first movement as a whole (including Mozart’s own cadenza) is integrated and crisply delivered; this is music-making both communicative and intelligent that enjoys an organic ebb and flow. The profound slow movement, taken surprisingly spaciously (in these Enlightened times) – and it is, after all, ‘only’ marked Andante! – does its beauty full justice and is explored as a great operatic aria. The finale, again measured in tempo, is ideally pointed, and immensely civilised, if not as witty as it might be, but this is a performance that finds many hidden beauties and beguiling contours.

On paper, Pollini’s seriousness of purpose should suit the C minor Concerto to perfection. The opening of it finds what now sounds like quite a large VPO (certainly a bigger band than for K414) giving an exposition both powerful and consolatory. Such tenseness is apt; the potential for tragedy is made palpable. Pollini’s playing underlines the stark countenance of Mozart’s creation; it isn’t maudlin though (the first movement has a judiciously forward-moving tempo) and the woodwinds contribute much that is enchanting. Salvatore Sciarrino’s cadenzas (in the first and last movements) are surprisingly traditional without being ‘textbook’. The Larghetto is straightforwardly phrased – serenade-like – and the finale returns us to the claustrophobia of the opening movement: tragedy nakedly expresses (and contrasted) but not made a meal of, tonal floodgates opened up to remind us that Beethoven was just around the corner, artistically speaking. The closing bars are doom-laden.

These recordings are compiled from concerts. Sometimes one is more aware than ideal that an audience is present (and editing between different performances is occasionally apparent), but this is music-making of a high order: the art that conceals art – it’s always Mozart but it could only be Pollini and the Vienna Philharmonic.

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