Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24 (CD review)

Also, Schumann:  Piano Concerto. Evgeny Kissin, piano; Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra. EMI 946 3 82879 2 6.

Certainly, there is no questioning the skill, sensitivity, and bravura of pianist Evgeny Kissin or the equally skilled work of conductor Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra. So, maybe it's a matter of first impressions.

Things begin on this disc with the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24, which is a fairly dark work for the composer. But it seems as though EMI's live concert recording (Barbican Hall, London, November, 2006) makes it doubly dark, tending to make the orchestral accompaniment sound veiled and murky in the big opening and closing movements. The orchestral sound is dynamic enough, to be sure, with a solid bass response, but the midrange comes out rather beclouded in terms of inner detail.

To double check, I put on Murray Perahia's account with the English Chamber Orchestra on Sony for comparison, and I found it much more vibrant and to my liking. Fortunately, this shrouded condition of the EMI effort does not affect the piano, which EMI apparently miked closely enough for it to hold its own. So, Kissin's handling of the middle, slow movement comes off quite nicely.

The Schumann Piano Concerto fares better, probably because it is more lithe to begin with, and, therefore, the orchestra is less of a hindrance. Also, Colin Davis has had enough experience in this work to give it its due (remember the wonder of Kovacevich's recording with Davis and the BBC Symphony on Philips), whereas in the Mozart, Davis and Kissin seem fractionally more sluggish. Anyway, EMI had the sense not leave any applause in the recording, and the audience is admirably quiet throughout the proceedings. That's a blessing right there.

Adapted from a review the author originally published in the $ensible Sound magazine.


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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