Mozart Piano Concertos Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra ABC Classics ★★★★✩
THESE four albums of Mozart piano concertos feature English pianists Imogen Cooper and Howard Shelley and Australian Simon Tedeschi with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. With one concerto per album, about 30 minutes of music, the recordings date from 2000 to 2010 and make a fascinating comparison of stylistic approaches. Shelley’s performances with the TSO of KV456 and 503 set the benchmark for elegance and excitement. Conducting from the piano, he shows an affinity for the style; his fluid tempos and naturally unfolding phrasing shape the music with expressive ease. Shelley’s touch is crystalline yet beautifully modulated to capture the changing character of each theme. The TSO responds with sensitivity, creating memorable, delightful performances. Also with the TSO but under the direction of Alexander Briger, Tedeschi’s performance of the A major concerto KV488 seems less comfortable stylistically. The first two movements are solid and a little square, lacking the sparkle and intensity of Shelley’s recordings. Tedeschi allows himself more freedom in the cadenzas and finale, playing with greater colour and imagination. Cooper’s performance of the last concerto, KV595, with the ACO, is beautifully controlled, her mellow tone and legato touch creating a romantic approach. However, the overall performance is fairly sedate; her characterisations are less vivid than Shelley’s and her straight-ahead approach in the finale drags a little. The ACO creates wonderful moments of dramatic intensity but at other times plods along.