This box contains Brendel's first Mozart cycle, with Marriner and the Academy, expertly remastered and offered in the bargain-basement price range. As such it is excellent value, despite skimpy notes (in German). Brendel's way with Mozart is well-known and often celebrated. Not for him the expressive nuances of Perahia, Uchida or Barenboim. Brendel's Mozart is vigorous, plainspoken and, at times, a bit prosaic. In compensation, however, the listener gets a non-interventionist, but always stylish, reading of Mozart as near as possible to authentic performance practice as can be conveyed on a modern piano, with a modern-instrument chamber orchestra of appropriate size. If that approach to these evergreen works appeals to you, then this set could function as a a fine "starter collection" of the Mozart Concertos (minus the four from KV 107 and those numbered 1-4, all of which derive from works of other composers, though they are arranged as concertos by Mozart himself). The set does include the two- and three-piano Concertos, nos. 10 & 7 respectively, though the latter is given in a very effective arrangement for two pianos. Both are played with zest and imagination by Brendel and Imogen Cooper.
Among the highlights of Brendel's cycle, I would cite the following: 6, 8, 9, 13, 14, 18, 19, 22, 23, 25, and 27. All of these remain free of the didacticism that could sometimes afflict Brendel's playing in the 1970's and 1980's. Few versions of no. 9 convey it's bold inventiveness as effectively as Brendel/Marriner, and I would cite that performance as the high-point of Brendel's cycle for this listener. Nos. 20 and 24 are appropriately dramatic in a Beethovenian way, though occasionally the brittleness of Brendel's approach--and his tone--prove irksome. That brittleness is also in evidence in no. 5, which is altogether too aggressive, and intermittently in nos. 15, 21 and 26 as well. But I am not disposed to overemphasize these liabilities, for Brendel proves throughout this set to be a more than reliable guide to repertoire he obviously knows intimately and loves enthusiastically. That enthusiasm ultimately wins the day, even in certain works where one might wish for a more gracious, lyrical approach. For listeners who might find Perahia too delicate, Barenboim too personal, Ashkenazy too robust, and Uchida too introverted (among the complete cycles with which I am familiar), Brendel's collaboration with Marriner and the Academy at the heght of their collective powers might be your best bet. Moreover, having a first-rate exponent of 18th-Century music at the helm assures that the orchestral contribution has the expert leadership it sometimes lacks in pianist-directed versions of these works.
Altogether, a successful venture, strongly recommended, particularly in this price range. Of course, every classical music lover and pianophile should at least consider obtaining certain Mozart concerto recordings that have deservedly acquired classic status--such as Edwin Fischer in many of the late concertos; Haskil in nos. 9, 13, 29 and 24; Serkin/Szell in 19 & 20; Casadesus/Szell in 21-24, 26-27; Curzon in 20, 23, 24, and 27; Gilels in 27; Kempff in 8, 22, 23, 24 and 27; and Bernstein (as soloist and conductor) in 15. I would also strongly recommend Brendel's earlier recordings for Vox (particularly 25, 27 and the two-piano Concerto with Klien) and for Vanguard (9 & 14 with Janigro/Zagreb). Haebler's distinctive--if rather "dresden-china-ish" cycle with Rowiki for Phillips is regrettably long-gone, as is (I believe) Kraus's less consistently successful cycle with Simon and a pick-up Viennese Orchestra. If some or all of those two cycles were reissued, that would be a benefaction for collectors. Kraus's splendid versions of 12 & 18 with Monteux and the BSO is currently available for direct order from Haydn House, in good transfers (don't hesitate if you are an admirer of the pianist).