Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 20 (CD review)

Piotr Anderszewski, piano and direction; Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Virgin Classics 0946 344696 2.

I had never heard anything from pianist Piotr Anderszewski before Virgin's release of this disc several years back, but the man is certainly a force to be reckoned with. He's been making acclaimed piano recordings for the past fourteen or fifteen years, and this was, I believe, his second recording of Mozart pieces. I doubt that anyone will find him entirely disappointing, although his playing is not without its eccentricities.

While the pianist (who also acts as director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra) appears to play with complete precision and forethought, the melodies seeming to come out in a semi-improvisatory way. The performances sound perfectly well ordered, yet there is nothing cold or calculating about them.  Indeed, they have a precision and purpose that are hard to deny.

Yet, for my taste, I found the readings a tad rushed in the outer movements as well as in the great Romance of Piano Concerto No. 20. Perhaps that is a simple matter of personal taste, so one can easily discount it. What is clearer is that Anderszewski performs both concertos with power and grace, and the interpretations provide plenty of gusto along with the poetry. So, take your choice.

What may also be a matter of taste, though, is Virgin's sound, which is somewhat soft, warm, and slightly shrouded in hall resonance. Maybe to some ears the acoustic will seem to flatter the music, but I found it a bit too vague for the exactitude of the piano playing. It's an odd circumstance, this. The soft-focus sonics would seem to complement the dreaminess of Mozart's slow movements, yet it only made me wish for greater clarity.

JJP

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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