Mozart Piano Concertos
Maria-Joao Pires has recorded these concertos before, for Erato, and this experience shows in assured playing. In K449 I find the sound of the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded in Vienna's Musikverein, too big: the string section seems large and the hall over-reverberant. Furthermore, the piano sounds plummy, and even those who dislike the fortepiano may question its suitability. With these reservations, one can enjoy Pires's deft and sensitive performance, without strong individuality but offering consistent intelligence, and the brisk finale shows her and Abbado at their best. Even so, this is a romanticized slow movement; the gooey orchestral sound does not help, but the pianist is also partly responsible in a way that I have sometimes noted in her performances of Mozart's sonatas.
The Coronation Concerto earns more praise. This was recorded at a Salzburg concert (there is applause), and the sound is more to scale, though having the necessary weight in the bigger passages with trumpets and timpani. The first movement has ample energy, although it could offer more feminine grace in the second subject. The piano sounds good here, and the instrument is well balanced with the orchestra, as demonstrated by the exchanges in the first movement's development section, while Paul Badura-Skoda's cadenza is effective and well managed. The elegant little slow movement has charm and the gavotte-like finale dances along well. This particular coupling of Mozart concertos is uncommon and no alternative disc comes to mind; for collectors seeking a complete set, that of Murray Perahia, now available at medium price, remains my first choice for its keen response to the music.'