189 of 195 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2000
As a long-time fan of Vladimir Ashkenazy's playing, I could have been given no better Christmas present from my friend than this CD. Mozart is a sublime composer (one of my favourites), and I have rarely encountered someone who doesn't admire and respect his oeuvre. These concertos (20, 21, 23, 24 & 25) stem from his later period and are all beautiful examples of Mozart's skill at keyboard composition. The piano is superbly balanced against the orchestral accompaniment, and in these recordings Ashkenazy performs at his best. Lyrical and articulate (as he always is) he takes the concertos at a natural pace and allows them to breathe. As he is also conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra from the piano the recording has a sense of freshness, vitality, and grace that stems from the soloist's interaction with his orchestra under the dual hat of conductor. A worthy CD in every respect, I warmly recommend it for first-time Mozart listeners and well-learned Mozart scholars alike.
A point of interest regarding the two C major and the C minor concertos recorded here is that the cadenzas are composed by Ashkenazy himself; the other two by Mozart (K488) and Beethoven (K466).
A beautiful CD and a must-have for the collection.
on 30 July 2012
If you like your Mozart played by a more sizeable modern orchestra, as opposed to a "period" orchestra or even a small ensemble, then these are the performances for you. Ashkenazy is one of the premiere figures of our generation, and here he conducts the Philharmonia, as well as being the soloist. The performances are strong, crisp, clear, and possess great attention to detail, which makes us return to them again and again.
He can take his time, particularly in K466 and K491; the central movement of K491 may be a little slower than its marking of "Larghetto", but it is enormously moving and serene, a wonderful episode of calm between two towering peaks. These peaks are truly powerful and very much look forward to the 19th Century: alone among the Concertos, Mozart here uses a 19th Century wind Orchestra with clarinets and oboes, as well as a flute, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani.
K466 takes 34.5 minutes which is long, compared to other recordings, but, for me, it works: this was, after all, a major a revolutionary work of its time, in that it broached new ground ("it begins with a shudder", as Eric Blom has said and its key of D Minor is also a major break-through in Piano Concerto literature) and for many years was the only Mozart Concerto anyone knew properly. The opening movement is powerful, particularly in the development section, and the mysterious, brooding end to the movement is very impressive. The second movement flows leisurely (there is no indication of tempo), and its impassioned central section provides a strong - and in fact needed - contrast. Ashkenazy adopts a slightly slower tempo than usual, in the finale, but it is in keeping with his overall structure of this work. The D Major ending is not a "happy" one, but more of a relaxation; in K491, Mozart kept to the concero's basically tragic content.
The famous K467(can we PLEASE stop calling it the "Elvira Madigan Concerto"?) is, by contrast to K466, festive and sprightly, and Ashkenazy is not afraid to add a few embellishments, notably in the first entrance of the Piano in Movement 1. We know Mozart himself was not above doing similar such embellishments in performances of his piano works. The stream of melody which forms the central movement never fails to move us, but in fact there are pointers to the future with some noticeable dissonances. K488 has just the right amount of sunniness and melancholy, with an exhilarating finale, beautifully realised and played by Ashkenazy.
A slight problem perhaps exists in K503, where the 1st movement is on CD 1, the other 2 movements on CD 2, but this need not spoil your enjoyment of what is a lesser-known, but fascinating, Olympian work. It is, in fact, the culmination of Mozart's Piano Concertos. There were 2 more to come, but this work, like the "Jupiter" Symphony is very much a summing-up of his Concerto development from its earliest beginnings. It may not have the immediate appeal, from the point of view of actual melodies, since it is more detached, but it will grow on you. Again, the 1st movement is powerfully done, the enigmatic slow movement wends its way like a mountain stream; the finale is not all high jinks; it must not be played too fast and Ashkenazy gets the tempo just right: this is statuesque music, very appealing, but matching the grandeur of the opening movement and the detached, almost dream-like quality of the second.
A pity that the only missing work in this great set is K482, but we must hope that Amazon can give us this, along with other Mozart Concertos, since Ashkenazy has recorded them all.