Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 20 (CD review)

Piotr Anderszewski, piano and direction; Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Virgin Classics 0946 344696 2.

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.


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