Leonardo | Argentina | 01/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the market there is no 2Cds better compilation of Mozart piano concertos like this one,I think. Here you have 5 concertos. I know of a Norrington 188.8.131.52.25 and a brendel 184.108.40.206.24 and 220.127.116.11.27. Here you have the essentials; I mean all of them are truly important.
Barenboim leads the ECO and this pays off: a chamber orchestra sounds more transparent than a bigger one, even though this approach is no "HIP" (historicist).Maybe you can find it sometimes too heavy textured but in analogue recordings I have to find a recording with so forward and natural balance of woodwind, the effect of a chamber orchestral group. But the balances, although fairly transparent, show their age: trumpets in Nº 21 are too far away for instance.
In general I find here a mixture of ancient performing practices (I mean,heavy vibrato sometimes, lack of a crisp attack in some places,forward wind balances but not enough) with a romantic touch sometimes(this is not necessary a disadvantage, for Barenboim adds colour and variety by doing this,in fact he achieves a charming playing) but with a general spontaneity in orchestra and/or piano parts. Nº 9 is great, brisk outer movs with a very slow -and trascendent- slow mov.Nº 20 has a 1st mov very dramatic, a romanza fluid enough and a stormy last mov, as it should be. Nº 21 is a mixed bug: nice piano playing but an orchestral accompaniment lacking colour in 1st mov, all ruined by a too slow speed. The famous andantino is better but still languid (why,Harnoncourt, have you recorded only the 23 and 26 ???).The last mov is marked with very fast indication but here is played much slower;however, the effect is quite effective.
Nº 23 has an usual "velvet-like" 1st mov (wait for Harnoncourt to hear something different): just OK. 2nd mov is an adagio, too slow and romantic but with a real sense of a funereal march, a quite charming reading. Last mov is plenty of energy and verve, as it should. Nº 27, as usual at that time,is played in an "elegiac" style. 1st mov is not bad, just correct. 2nd mov sounds very romantic but this pianist has the ability to make this romantic effussions sound timeless (a great virtue).I would say that he adds little improvisation here, quite an achievement !!! Last mov is quite standard.
To sum up, a fine compilation, specially for begginers and for those who wants to have Mozart in their collection but have not enough space. In general,each mov is sensitive to the character of the piece, with some romantic touch in slow movs and very good sound. Perhaps there are better readings of each concerto but this release is a triumph as a compilation.