Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 12 and 17 (CD review)

Alfred Brendel, piano; Sir Charles Mackerras, Scottish Chamber Orchestra.  Philips B0006594-02.

This title is virtually self-recommending. You've got one of the world's preeminent pianists, Alfred Brendel, performing with one of the world's preeminent Mozartians, Sir Charles Mackerras, leading the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. What's not to like?

Some critics have complained over the years about Brendel sometimes being overly fussy, overly intellectual in his music making, but here he seems almost completely at home.  He remains a wondrous musician, yet he keeps surprising us with the delicacy of his touch and the seeming spontaneity of his gestures, pauses, and nuances.

I confess to a greater delight in Mozart's Concerto No. 17 than in No. 12, so let me just mention a few of its pleasures. The opening is almost magical, and Brendel makes the most of it, charming us with its lush yet spirited Romanticism. In the second, slow movement, Brendel does seem a tad self conscious, almost as though he's sometimes stopping to admire his own work; but it comes off dreamily enough. And the Finale points to Papageno's song in The Magic Flute of a few years later, so we know perhaps from where Mozart got his later inspiration. Like the rest of the work, the Finale is both attractive and winsome.

It's always nice to see Philips issuing discs, as they were still doing when they released this Mozart recording in 2006; they seem to do so little of it lately compared to the old days. They haven't changed their overall sound much, either, the 2004 recording being big and warm. It's not always a model of utmost transparency, however, so don't expect a lot of inner detailing. In fact, it's somewhat overblown in the orchestral department, the Scottish Chamber ensemble sounding bigger than it probably is, due to plentiful room resonances. Nevertheless, the piano sounds very lifelike, and it's here you'll want to spend most of your time.

Incidentally, it's also almost like old times seeing Brendel's face on the booklet cover, something of a tradition with Brendel and Philips for decades.

JJP

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa