BBC Music Magazine - - CONCERTO -

Pi­ano Con­cer­tos Nos 25 & 26 Franceso Piemon­tesi (pi­ano); Scot­tish Cham­ber Orches­tra/an­drew Manze Linn CKD 544 61:11 mins

On pa­per this record­ing seems an ex­cit­ing prospect, yet oddly the re­al­ity sounds like less than the sum of its parts. For starters, the pair­ing is pos­si­bly not ideal: Mozart’s big C ma­jor Pi­ano Con­certo No. 25, K503 is one of the best of them all, while No. 26, K537, though ad­ja­cent to it in num­ber­ing terms, is scarcely its equal in terms of in­spi­ra­tion. Francesco Piemon­tesi’s play­ing is mostly mag­nif­i­cent, though, with crys­talline clar­ity, ra­di­ant tone and elo­quent phras­ing. In the fine and in­trigu­ing ca­den­zas – K537 by Paul Badura-skoda and K503 by Friedrich Gulda – he shines with surety of pur­pose.

Nev­er­the­less, there’s a cer­tain rigid­ity and heavy-hand­ed­ness in the orches­tra with the re­sult that even Mozart at his most sub­lime re­mains res­o­lutely earth­bound. Of­ten

An­drew Manze seems to em­pha­sise the first beat in a way that makes the bar­lines al­most vis­i­ble; and rather than flow­ing nat­u­rally through Mozart’s in­ven­tive chro­mati­cisms, there’s a ten­dency to ram them home – no­tably in K503’s slow move­ment, in which even Piemon­tesi lunges at a par­tic­u­larly juicy bass-line with the mu­si­cal equiv­a­lent of an up­raised rolling pin.

This ex­ag­ger­a­tion of de­tail at the ex­pense of flow can some­times be­come prob­lem­atic. The Scot­tish Cham­ber Orches­tra sounds co­gent and well uni­fied, but the slow move­ments’ cru­cial wind sec­tion con­tri­bu­tions come across as ef­fi­cient rather than oper­atic. The pi­ano seems rather closely miked, al­though the recorded sound qual­ity (from the Usher Hall) is other­wise pleas­ing and warm. The to­tal­ity of course is not bad, but cer­tain el­e­ments can seem both­er­some. Your re­sponse may be dif­fer­ent. Jes­sica Duchen

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