Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra no. 12 in A major, K. 414 – Concerto for Piano and Orchestra no. 24 in C minor, K. 491
Wiener Philharmonker, Maurizio Pollini (conducting from the piano)
Recording: Klaus Heimann, Wiener, Musikverein, Grosser Saal (06/2007) – Running time: 55’12
Deutsche Grammophon 80010994-02 – Booklet in English (distributed by Universal)
The Piano Concerto in A major, K. 414 was composed in the winter of 1782 when Mozart was attempting to conquer Vienna, making appearances as pianist/conductor much as Mr. Pollini is doing in this recording. The scoring is primarily for strings with the woodwinds employed merely for color and reinforcement. In fact, the winds may be left out entirely to allow for performance with string quartet and piano, which was a prevailing tradition of that time. This concerto is Mozart at his most elegant and graceful. Maurizio Pollini plays with a warmth and playfulness that is most appealing and the cadenzas he uses are Mozart’s own.
Frankly, I was very surprised. I attended many of Pollini’s recitals and concert appearances with orchestras in the 1970’s and 80’s and he played Mozart in particular with a dryness and intellectualism that earned him the reputation as the “Italian Glenn Gould.” Not so in these recordings where there is a strong emotional connection and fullness of tone drawn from the piano. He employs a subtle use of rubato that is ever so telling and shows an enormous growth and maturity in his playing.
The Piano Concerto, K. 491 is a most unusual work. What distinguishes it from other concertos in the cannon is that Mozart composed it in C minor. There is only one other example to found in a minor key, that being the D minor concerto, K. 466. There is a tempestuousness and deep sadness to this work that is difficult to define, as the music seems to arise from an unfathomably deep vein of sorrow. The woodwinds are scored, in addition to the standard two oboes, for two clarinets. This creates a specific color that expresses the anguish and explosive tension and clearly points the way to Beethoven.
Mozart left no cadenzas for this concerto and Mr. Pollini uses those composed by Salvatore Sciarrino. Pollini achieves a great sense of ferocity and drama in his playing here, while yet being marvelously concise and unexaggerated. The final Allegretto of this concerto, while maintaining its serious nature, is one of Mozart’s greatest examples of Theme and Variations. Mr. Pollini plays these variations with much bravura and covers a wide range of expressive moods.
The playing throughout both concertos is artistically impressive. In this day and age of Mozart performances continually being done by "ancient orchestras" it is a great pleasure to hear the magnificent Vienna Philharmonic, with its splendidly rich sonority, accompany the piano in these concertos. This is a live performance, which has a spontaneity that will easily engage you. The recorded sound is stunning and the DG engineers are to be congratulated. I can recommend this recording without any reservations; and I extend my bravos to Maestro Pollini.