Mozart: Piano Concertos 17 & 20 (CD review)

Leif Ove Andsnes, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra.  EMI 50999 5 00281 2 2.

Hard on the heels of Leif Ove Andsnes's terrific EMI recording of the Grieg Piano Concerto is the pianist's addition of Mozart's Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 20. They are no less impressive from a man who must now rank high on anybody's list of best pianists in the world.

Concerto No. 17 comes across just as joyfully, cheerfully, zestfully, smilingly as one could want, leaving the listener elated and elevated for the experience.  Then, No. 20, much the opposite in its initial seriousness, goes through its intentional metamorphosis, ending in the same ebullient spirit.  Andsnes brings the appropriate gravity to the opening Allegro, the necessary sensitivity and refinement to the second-movement Romanze, and the aforementioned zest to the Rondeau variations of the closing.  The disc leaves one wanting to start it all over again for an immediate second listen.

EMI's sound, recorded in 2007, allows nothing to be desired, either. It captures both the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, which Andsnes also leads, and the soloist most realistically, with weight, depth, breadth, and transparency.  Occasionally, the piano appears a trifle too large, too wide, and there are instances where I thought the left-right balance seemed a tad off, but these are such minor concerns I really shouldn't even mention them.  In short, count these as excellent performances in excellent sonic presentations all the way around.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa