2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 July 2013
I listened to No 25, Mozart's "Emperor", but there was little of that in either the performance or the recording. I had to relisten to the opening bars of the first movement several times from the beginning of the piano's entry, in order to ascertain that Gulda actually mis-hits the piano keys a couple of times thereby completely spoiling the grand start to this concerto with smudged notes...after that one can never feel in safe hands with this pianist! Added to that there appears to be some mistuning in the piano itself that comes through quite distinctly further on. Then there is the total emasculation of the orchestral accompanying both in the strings, which are never allowed to sing along or support the piano (lest they distract from the USP of the aged and clearly "past it" Gulda in a commercial comeback for DG) which is a tragedy as, HEAR ME O GOD, these are the strings of the Vienna Phil.; and also the instrumental playing which is extremely weak, lifeless. The poor oboist and flautist in the last movement seemed out of it as if they had just finished a concert of two Bruckner or Mahler symphonies. What was wrong with Abbado? Aside from that his conducting is just slow and unimaginative, the interplay or conversation between piano and orchestra uninspired and wooden. This is one of the worst mozart concerto recordings I have ever heard and expect Liberace at the London Palladium could have provided a more professional performance than this? The whole project smacks of under preparation and a cavalier approach. Great musicians (I am referring to the orchestra NOT the soloist or conductor who deserve to be crucified after this) reduced to this levelnof playing? Pathetic, and I blame the conductor entirely, though both Gunter Hermanns and Rainer Brock for DG must have set it up.
In the catalogue of recordings of 25 this does not amount to much and certainly not anybody's first choice...or last choice for that matter!
For scintillating keyboard virtuosity and technically superior performances with great well balanced sound go to Anda and his Mozarteum colleagues on a single Eloquence CD, or a late recording by Michelangeli live with Cord Garben with effective beautiful support from his Hamburg partners in a pianistically rock solid but totally joyous performance. Ironically, both too are on the DG label. The Michelangeli/Garben is the best 25 I have heard but coupled with a take it or leave it No 20 which still nevertheless holds its own against Gulda's.
There is also a new disc featuring the eminent pianist Paul Badura-Skoda in a performance of 25 from 1979 recorded by Austrian Radio, it is quite good, with the selfsame VPO in somewhat more robust form during a Viennese festival. Festive it is. This is what Mozart and good music making are all about. Delightful.
My advice, if you are cherry picking a collection of Mozart piano concertos give this Gulda/Abbado set a MISS.