This is by no means the only desirable super-bargain box set of Mozart piano concertos on the market - I am also fond of the the Brilliant set with Derek Han - and there are those who cannot stomach Zacharias's quirky insertion of the blazing, orchestral D minor chord, spliced in to introduce the cadenza in the final movement of K466, but otherwise it offers all the virtues of the best, most vivacious and sensitive Mozart playing.
It is not apparently a homogeneous entity as such, the concertos being compiled from recordings made with four conductors and six different orchestras between 1981 and 1990 and the items on the last and ninth CD, featuring the two concertos and sonata for two pianos were recorded in 1995, but the effect is by no means jarring and of course Zacharias's masterly pianism is common to every one. Such crisp, light, life-enhancing playing is its own recommendation. My fellow-reviewer B'OH is right to recommend anyone interested to start with K537, which does indeed have a joyous lift and whose roulades have an extraordinarily precise regularity suggestive of a celestial music-box. To underline that effect, the sound of a real music-box is replicated by a glockenspiel towards the end of the first movement, in another audacious innovation. 21 exquisitely performed concertos plus the ninth duos disc for absurdly little outlay from an unaccountably neglected artist accompanied by some big name conductors and celebrated orchestras: don't hesitate.
I have these recordings but in an earlier edition, which I cannot find on here and it may or may not be important. These recordings dating from the 80's, beginning with the fifth piano concerto, find Zacharias and his diverse orchestras and conductors in fine form. I remember attending a live concert in the early 80s in which a youthful Zacharias entranced this then youthful audience member with a beautiful performance of the twenty fifth piano concerto.
That concert experience led me to buy several of this series as it was first issued on LP and I was delighted to replace on CD, but this brings me to the reason for withholding the final star and that is just to sound a note of caution about the third movement of the twentieth piano concerto. At 5.06 there is what sounds to be bad splicing error in which alien chords sounding from an ancient Don Giovanni recording intrude. I never had this reading on LP and don't know if it was there from the start. Personally, I have always ascribed this to a technical cock up in the studio remastering rooms as I cannot understand why else it would be there. For years I tried alternative reissues of this recording of the twentieth to no avail and it remains on the downloads that I have heard. Maybe this release has been finally corrected. I believe it is a technical mistake and if it has been corrected I would be delighted to know this. However, I once emailed EMI to find out if a corrected release was available and received the reply that this was no mistake but intended as the soloist was wanting to draw a parallel between the concerto and the opera. I still find this hard to believe, and, sadly if it is true, then I simply find it an irritating distraction which rules this otherwise very fine performance of this concerto out of court for me. Others may feel differently, but you need to be aware.
If it were not for this problem as a set of 21 concertos it would receive the full five stars from me instead of four. To refine my vote, as a set of 20 concertos, with the omission sadly of the twentieth concerto which is an otherwise vivid reading, I would have no hesitation in awarding the full five stars for these beautiful performances. There is much to savour in these recordings.
Much like the Queen of Spades winking at Pushkin's Hermann, every time Christian Zacharias sees the letter B, the poor bugger must think to himself (fairly or otherwise): "That's it. It's been decided. That's my placement in the scheme of things - a B-grader."
Few reviews come his way on `Zon. the Penguin Guide ignores him pe se. He personifies Terra Incognita. When will someone review his Beethoven or Schubert cycles? What does the poor bugger have to do? Channel Liberace with his candelabras? Have sex with his piano? Develop a Stealth-Steinway or a drone-piloted Bosendorfer?
Happily, redress is at hand.
When it comes to this repertoire, I am more jaded than the throne of the Dragon-Emperor. I love this hybrid cycle: how amateurish that sounds but it is the truth. How fresh it is - like these miraculous works are hot off the press! Having owned the LPs, I cannot believe that I have gone without these performances for so long (his K 449 & K 414 excepted which I have retained over the years). Yesterday, I thrice listened to the Coronation - no mean feat in itself (and in passing, what a cadenza to the first movement - Zacharias transforms the piano into a music-box). If you purchase this set, start with K 537 - kapow!
Zacharias plays with plenty of personality but is no show pony. Every phrase sparkles with light and life. His ornamentation is astute. The accompaniment of the left-hand is more prominent than with his competitors - it's good to hear it for a change. He does not eclipse the likes of Edwin Fischer - the Lion's Velvet Paw - or Gilels in K 595 but it does not matter. Taken as a whole, this cycle is more of an upper than any pill from Doctor Roberts.
The various orchestras are just the right-size with plenty of strings but not to the point where the woodwind are swamped. As demonstrated by his recordings of Thamos King in Egypt and the Idomeneo Ballet Music, David Zinman was a fine Mozartian before he became a Mad Mullah with the Period Practice Taliban. Wand is clearly a better Mozartian than Brucknerian. Maksymiuk has his day in the sun with the earlier piano concertos. The only disappointment to date has been the opening prelude to the D Minor - even then, it is damned musical. And who would have thought that the slow movement of k 467 could be played at such a fast tempo and still be a bullseye?
Re-encountering this cycle has been an overwhelming experience. Towards the end of his life, Newton commented that he felt "like a boy playing on the sea-shore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
Isaac - relax! Here it is.
K 175 - very good to excellent. K 238 - very good to excellent. K 242 - very good. K 246 - excellent. K 271 - Maksymiuk (the conductor) is not at his best in this masterpiece: good. K 365 - very good. K 413 - very good to excellent. K 414 - excellent to gun performance. K 415 - excellent. K 448 - highly enjoyable K 449 - gun performance. K 450 - excellent. K 451 - very good K 453 - very good - does not beat Anda. K 456 - very good - ditto. K 459 - very good - ditto. K 466 - the opening is not quite minatory enough for my tastes but warms up thereafter: very good. K 467 - excellent. I love the fast tempi in the slow movement. K 482 - gun performance or as they say in cricket, "Six!" K 488 - gun performance. K 491 - gun performance. K 503 - gun performance - Fischer aside, my favourite C Major. What a joy it is to listen to. K 537 - gun performance and the best on the market. K 595 - gun performance and a genuine challenger to the likes of Anda and King Emil Gilels.
Overall, it's powerful. It's imaginative. It's poetic. It's well recorded. It's subtle. It's musical. And it should be yours.
This is the full works,I think Mozart wrote some of the worlds finest music and his piano concertos are no exception, If you are a fan of Mozart and you like piano music this is the one for you,And Christian Zacharias is an exceptional pianist,I have played these discs several tmes and never tire of them.Mozart: Complete Piano Concertos D.H.
Christian has a sensative feel for and understanding of Mozart. Obviously, a very talented pianist. The venues are in the main, ideal and with good recording techniques, producing a superb set of concerts to remember.
it is only recently i have come to enjoy ythe mozart concertos...my tastes are generally the romantic concerti. however i have been very fond of clara haskil's recordings of some of the mozart concerti, and wanted to find recordings of (nearly) all of the works.
zacharias is wonderful here, delightful performances, which can make a non-mozartian such as myself not only interested in these works, but also enjoy them time and time again. i would never want to be without the haskil performances of the ones she recorded, but for a (nearly complete set this is a real gem!