MOZART Piano Concertos Nos.20 & 25
MARTHA ARGERICH, Piano
Ensemble Mozart / Claudio Abbado
Deutsche Grammophon 479 1033 / *****
This recording of a live concert in March 2013 at the Lucerne Festival marks the end of a legendary partnership that has endured almost half a century. Argentina-born pianist Martha Argerich and the late Italian conductor Claudio Abbado (who died in January) were as much a glamour item last year as they were in their first recording of Ravel and Prokofiev concertos in 1967. In the evergreen music of Mozart, their shared passion finds a spirit of playfulness and adventure that is undimmed by the years (she was 72 and he 79 at the time).
There is no fiery rhetoric or hot-headedness in the apparent pomp of Piano Concerto No.25 in C major (K.503), while cool heads prevailed in the storms and stresses of Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor (K.466). What one finds unequivocally is an unspoken serenity that transcends time and the ages, most evident in the lingering slow movements. The finales spark to life, but there is no rushing to strike awe or impress. Their partnership is just a celebration in the effervescence of living itself. Such is the eternal essence of joyous and glorious music making.
Complete RCA Album Collection
RCA Red Seal 88843039072 (6 CDs) / *****
This box-set commemorates the 25th death anniversary of the formidable British pianist John Ogdon (1937-1989), who was best known for his mastery of Romantic repertoire and fearsomely virtuosic works often shunned by others. Six long-playing records for the RCA Victor label dating from 1967 to 1972 have been re-released for CD with the original artwork retained. Pride of place is Alkan’s 50-minute long Concerto for Solo Piano, from the twelve etudes in the minor keys. This stupendous reading remains one of the defining pioneer recordings of music by the French Romantic recluse. True to his penchant for monumentality, Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata and Rachmaninov’s two piano sonatas, replete with massive chords and big gestures, are accorded their due.
The true rarities are piano concertos by 20th century American composers Peter Mennin and Richard Yardumian (Passacaglia, Recitative & Fugue) partnered by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Igor Buketoff. Dissonance and neo-Bachian polyphony contrast these extremely well-crafted but unjustly neglected works. Two recital programmes of rarely-heard pieces by Danish composer Carl Nielsen and popular warhorses by Franz Liszt (the legendary 1972 recording from
) demonstrate the
breadth and catholic tastes of an artist, cruelly afflicted by manic-depressive
disease, who left us all too soon. Tokyo