Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Old Dog, Some New Tricks

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K467 [21:22]
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat, K482 [33:36]

Jonathan Biss, piano
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Recorded in concert from 15-16 March, 2008 at Lefrak Concert Hall, Queens College, Flushing, New York

EMI 50999 2 17270 2 3 [61:07]

It would be nonsense to say that Mozart showed a weakness in any genre in which he chose to write, but it is in the piano concertos that we experience some of his most profound thinking, his most lyrical melodies and some of his most gregarious humor. The works presented here are two of the biggies, and EMI have trotted out another in their seemingly unending string of young artists to team up with New York’s exemplary Orpheus Chamber Orchestra to give us a very satisfying performance indeed.

Jonathan Biss is a wonderfully able technician, and he sails through the intricacies of these two mature works with ease. The opening movement of K467 is stately and well paced, and Mr. Biss’ tone is one of shimmering beauty and crystal clarity. The often over-ripe “Elvira Madigan” theme is played with operatic elegance, and with the utmost taste. I did find, however, that the rondo was, although quite cleanly played, a bit breathless. Mr. Biss didn’t miss a note, but the lightening pace he chose had me sitting on chair’s edge hoping that everyone would meet at the end. For the record, they did.

The meaty K482 receives a very well balanced and stately performance. Of particular merit is the simply stunning playing from the winds in the second movement. This at times soaring and at others achingly heart wrenching theme and variations is given a masterful performance. The finale contains some of Mozart’s most joyful music. One can just imagine him sitting at the piano and ripping through this jolly little tune with Tom Hulce’s wicked little smile plastered across his face.

It is a nice thing to hear these oft-recorded works approached with such fresh and youthful vitality. Recorded sound is alive and present, and Mr. Biss’ program essay is thoughtful and delightfully lacking in academic blather. Instead, we get a nice insight into Mozart’s mindset and the structure of the music. This is most definitely a winner. Playing like this encourages me to explore Mr. Biss’ recent Beethoven recordings.

No comments: