MOZART Piano Concertos Nos 25 & 27
I wonder if Piotr Anderszewski has it in mind to record all of Mozart’s major piano concertos. This is his third such coupling; the first appeared in 2002 (Nos 21 and 24 – 4/02), so at this rate he’ll be about 80 by the time he finishes. His recordings keep on getting better and better, too – having anyway started out at a remarkable standard – so Mozartians may well be in for decades of treats to come, however piecemeal we are fed them.
Anderszewski habitually pairs a lyrical work with a more dramatic one: the ubiquitous C major, once indelibly associated with a Swedish film, versus the clarinet-imbued Sturm und Drang C minor, followed four years later by the serene G major, No 17, set against the agitated D minor, No 20 (5/06). Here it is the very last concerto – often described as ‘autumnal’ or ‘valedictory’, given its proximity to Mozart’s death (although it may have been started up to three years earlier) – prefaced by the triumphant C major work whose chief motif seems almost to quote the Marseillaise. These have often been thought to signal a departure from the quasi-operatic-ensemble construction of the run of concertos from the mid-1780s, moving towards a more discursive unfolding in K503 and a more simply songlike one in K595. Nevertheless, the wonderful playing of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe shows just how fully the earlier work, especially, is dominated by woodwind conversation and that it can’t be too distantly related to the sound world of Figaro’s ‘Non più andrai’.
Anderszewski’s piano is right there in the middle of it, supporting, chattering away in passagework, never once hogging the spotlight at the expense of his first-desk soloists, and pulling gently against the pulse to coax maximum character from the music without compromising its shapely contours. He is aware, too, of the delicate shading of these works, taking, for example, a minute and a half longer than Maria João Pires (with Abbado) over K595’s slow movement; the sense of awed stillness he achieves here contrasts with her comparatively playful approach, and Anderszewski’s studio conditions show off the COE more finely than the Orchestra Mozart, recorded in concert in 2011. Two years after that Pires performance, Martha Argerich revisited K503 with the same accompanists; Anderszewski is broader in all but the finale than the Argentinian and here provides his own first-movement cadenza, which matches the majesty of its surroundings while tweaking cheekily at the bounds of 18th-century harmonic propriety. (In the absence of a genuine Mozart cadenza for K503, Argerich uses one by her teacher Friedrich Gulda.)
There are so many moments here that bring a smile to a jaded Mozartian’s face: little holdings back, touches of ornamentation, that magical moment in K595’s slow movement where the piano’s song is shadowed only by flute and violins, exquisitely done here. You may be getting the impression that I rather like this record. I wouldn’t (couldn’t) go without recordings by other longtime favourite pianists (two of whom are invoked above); but then, Anderszewski is a favourite pianist too, and his coupling joins theirs without fear of compromise.