"What a superb set this is, with the charm and delicacy of Mozart's sublime inspirations exquisitely realised by Ashkenazy, who conducts the performances from the keyboard. If you associate Ashkenazy with the firework displays of Rachmaninov, Chopin and some of the Beethoven sonatas, you should not be put off here: his consummate musicianship is everywhere evident, from the somewhat conventional early works right through to the later masterpieces. Not only is it the soloist's playing which is a constant source of delight: the orchestra, too, excels with playing of great refinement, especially so in Mozart's marvellous woodwind writing in the later concertos.This really is a complete set, as not only do we get the two concert rondos, but also the double and triple piano concertos as well. In both of these Ashkenazy is joined by Barenboim, and, in the three-piano work, Fou Ts'ong. I found both performances intimate, enjoyable affairs, reminiscent, I believe, of what Mozart intended - without the 'slackness' identified in the original 'Penguin Stereo Record Guide' review, which also found 'both artists self-conscious'.The recordings are excellent, with about half of them being digital. The piano is faithfully reproduced and orchestral detail refreshingly present. My only regret is that in No.17 the piano is inexplicably set further back than in the other recordings, and so some nimble fingerwork on Ashkenazy's part is lost beneath the orchestral tuttis, the problem being at its worst in the first movement. This, of course, is a matter of taste, and the 'Penguin Guide' says of this concerto in particular that the 'balance between soloist and orchestra [is] finely judged'. Oh well, you can't please everyone. This, however, being my only complaint about this set, I can warmly recommend it to any prospective buyer."
janet_hamilton_seet | USA | 01/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The debate over which is the best Mozart piano concerto cycle normally revolves around the following: Barenboim, Ashkenazy, Perahia and Brendel.The Ashkenazy set is really the winner. Perahia's cycle is marred by questionable recording. The sound is not focused and there is a distortion which gets really annoying. Barenboim was too inexperienced when he made his cycle. Brendel? I would say he is more a Beethovenian than Mozartian. The real winner is Ashkenazy with the supreme technique and wherewithal to realize Mozart's genius. His technique allows him to play faster than his competitors. For instance, the final movement of No.21 is given the fastest and most thrilling rendition by Ashkenazy. As one reviewer pointed out below, the sound quality provided by Decca is also the best and most vivid. If you're a Mozart freak like me, you would just get all 4 cycles. Especially now that the cycles are available at this super cheap rate, I would very very highly recommend this Ashkenazy cycle."
A marriage made in heaven
Prescott Cunningham Moore | 12/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rarely do soloists and orchestras create such an amazing musical experience. Even more rare is that this experience is duplicated over two dozen times. Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra create what is truly one of the crowning achievements of audiophile history.
I have owned this set now for nearly half a decade and I am still surprised by Ashkenazy's level of musicianship. Not that I have ever doubted his skill, rather, I am still amazed that this master of Rachmaninoff and the romantics approaches these pieces so perfectly. Ashkenazy plays these concertos as they should be played. His typical sense of drama is somewhat subdued, replaced with a sublime sense of delicacy and classical phrasing. He brings out the beautiful chromaticism, the magical melodies, and the pure beauty of Mozart effortlessly.
What is even more wonderful is that the orchestral accompaniment is top notch. Although these are not period performances, the Philharmonia plays with a classical grace and level of perfection that push these performances over the top. The orchestra's sound is full, accompanying Ashkenazy's "full" sound quite well. As mentioned above, Ashkenazy (who conducts these performances from the piano) instills in the orchestra the perfect balance of classical grace and dramatic flair.
Finally, the recorded sound is flawless. This set is so appealing to me because Ashkenazy approaches these performances in an organized, coherent fashion. Unlike his set of the Beethoven concertos (where Ashkenazy's technique, phrasing, and ultimate interpretation is dramatically different in each concerto), Ashkenazy maintains a sense of classical style throughout the cycle. And not only are the interpretations so consistent, but the sound is as well. It almost seems as if all the concertos were recorded in one session.
Moments like this are rare in music. There are certainly individual performances of the concertos that may be more appealing here or there, but all in all Ashkenazy's cycle delivers the most consistently fresh, powerful, and beautiful interpretations. For those that are not sure they want to invest so much for this set, look into Decca's CD of the "Big Six" concertos (20-25) on two CDs. But you would be missing out. Ashkenazy does not "run through" the earlier concertos but actually plays them all as if they were all equally masterful. I highly recommend this set. It is a wonderful musical investment."
Simply the best set of Mozart Piano Concertos
MLao | 12/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ashkenazy's style is a very good fit with Mozart's piano works: light, articulate and playful. I could never part with this set. Those who only listen to the most popular concertos are missing out on some of the earlier works, which are just stunningly beautiful. The numerous scales in Mozart's scores represent a huge technical challenge, and Ashkenazy's natural fluidity makes the music very smooth and moving.
The orchestra is well balanced and remarkably well recorded. Overall, this is by far the best complete set of concertos out there. Warmly recommended."
Best cycle in the market
brandonscuusp | USA | 02/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the best Mozart Piano Concerto Cycle in the market. Ashkenazy plays with superb Mozartian style. Unlike Perahia's cycle which has some problems with the sound, Ashkenazy's cycle has perfect sonics. There's plenty of bottom to the performances something that is lacking in all the other cycles. At this kind of ridiculously cheap price, I would just buy it - it's a classic that will remain in your collection for many many years to come. You will enjoy the performances 20 years after you buy them. That's $3 per year!!"