If Mozart didn't necessarily invent the piano concerto form, he most certainly elevated it to its greatest prominence in the classical music genre with the twenty-seven works he did inside of it. Many of them have now been staples in the repertoire of every pianist worth their salt for over two centuries, having set the stage for, among others, Chopin's two spectacular entries, and Beethoven's five pieces. Some of those concertos of Mozart's, however, for various reasons, can sometimes be somewhat neglected among others in the set, particularly the final eight (20-27). One of those somewhat neglected concertos is featured on this recording by Portuguese-born pianist Maria Joao Pires, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under the direction of Claudio Abbado.
The 17th Piano Concerto, a composition of the year 1784, is sometimes dismissed as not being very grand because of its light orchestration and because it is in the key of G Major (the only other Mozart piano concerto that shares this key is the very early No. 4). In the hands of Ms. Pires, however, this 1993 recording of it makes it an extremely attractive work, very much on a par with the later one that Alfred Brendel did with Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Abbado and the C.O.E. are also in good shape here in assistance.
And then there is, of course, the 21st Piano Concerto, the one in C Major which is book ended by two hugely vivid sections (with trumpets and timpani), but whose middle movement, the F Major Andante, is forever associated in people's minds with the 1967 Swedish romantic movie ELVIRA MADIGAN, hence the nickname that has been attached to this work for all these years. On a somewhat larger scale, once again Pires and Abbado make for great collaborators; and the C.O.E. must rank as one of the finest of its type under Abbado's precise direction. Robert Casadesus' 1961 recording of this concerto, with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, is still considered the benchmark recording for this ultra-popular work, but this recording is very close to that one in performance and recording quality.
It isn't hard to recommend this pairing of two different piano concertos from the same young genius who left this world far too soon. Anyone who loves Mozart really should try this recording out for themselves.