Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 20 (CD review)
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.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.