Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Piano Concertos: No. 5; No. 8,
Christian Zacharias (pn, cond); Lausanne CO
MDG 9401562 (66:23)
This is the fifth volume of a projected series of all the Mozart piano concertos. Christian Zacharias
is now in his 10th season as artistic director and resident conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne. No surprise then that the ensemble playing in these performances exhibits such an appropriately relaxed and intimate quality. In addition to the Mozart set, it’s worth noting that, in his dual role as soloist and conductor, Zacharias has also recorded the Chopin concertos and a disc of Schumann, including the Piano Concerto and the two concert pieces, opp. 92 and 134. Generally speaking, my preference is for separation of the functions of soloist and conductor, even in repertoire like the Mozart concertos that predates the emergence of the conductor in the modern sense. In the case of Mozart, as well as Beethoven, two heads are better than one.
One of the most alluring aspects of these performances is the fastidiously pristine orchestral playing. In No. 5, K 275, for instance—the earliest of Mozart’s original concertos, which is to say the first not based on the work of other composers—this superb execution brings to mind a
of Watteau. In a ripe masterpiece like No. 23, K 488, it has the effect of Olympian calm and serenity. No less remarkable is Zacharias’s, lean, silvery piano sound. Proportionate, deftly scaled, sparingly pedaled, its overriding principle is a flowing legato. As seductive and beautifully calibrated as this sort of Mozart playing is, it also strikes as something of a throwback to earlier times. A generation of fortepianists has accustomed us to Mozartean technique that is not dependent on the large palette of dynamic gradations producible on the heavily strung, thick-hammered modern concert grand. Instead, they have demonstrated that expressivity on late-18th-century instruments is achieved by vivid contrast between legato and non-legato, more varied strategies of attack and release, and the exploitation of the distinct registers of these pianos. So, as beautiful as this piano playing is, it is not the last, or even the penultimate word in cutting-edge Classical performance practice. The price for its extraordinary refinement is the sacrifice of a degree of vitality. In a movement such as the plaintive Siciliano of the A-Major Concerto No. 23, the overriding affect is more wistful than tragic. This said, it is piano playing of great refinement and sophistication; witness the delicate filigree of the first-movement cadenza of No. 8.
All technical aspects of the recording are excellent, conveying a beautifully variegated, natural sound. Despite tendencies that may be considered somewhat retrograde to contemporary directions in Mozart interpretation, this disc affords manifold pleasures in its own, perfectly realized terms.
FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano no 5 in D major, K 175 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Written: 1773; Salzburg, Austria
Length: 20 Minutes 20 Secs.
Concerto for Piano no 8 in C major, K 246 "Lützow" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Christian Zacharias (Piano)
Lausanne Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1776; Salzburg, Austria
Length: 21 Minutes 21 Secs.
Concerto for Piano no 23 in A major, K 488 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria
Length: 24 Minutes 34 Secs.
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