Maurizio Pollini

Mozart: Piano Concertos K. 414 & 491

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Here's the kind of big-name, big-budget Mozart concerto recording that's not as common as it used to be. And lo, even one of the giants of contemporary pianism shows signs of having encountered the leaner approach of historical performances, and even of having absorbed them. Maurizio Pollini, best known for Chopin and the other lyric Romantics, conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra from the keyboard. That's an accomplishment in itself with that group, as encrusted with slow precision as a Noh drama troupe. But Pollini molds the orchestra into a lively, almost brusque ensemble quite different from the smoothly elegant, highly controlled band it was in Karl Böhm's Mozart recordings, finishing phrases smartly and kicking off Pollini's solos with a bit of zip. Pollini does have a way of making Mozart sound like Chopin, which works best in the slow movements and in the big Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491, in general, where Pollini also succeeds in realizing the transparency of texture beloved of historically oriented groups; you end up appreciating the importance of Mozart's wind writing. The recording was made live, and the engineering both captures the spontaneity of the moment and delivers impressive fidelity. Anyone who has enjoyed Pollini's playing over the years will be delighted to find his approach intact and ingeniously applied to Mozart, a composer he has never recorded much.

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