Alessio Bax

Alessio Bax Plays Mozart

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Italian pianist Alessio Bax has recorded music from Bach to Rachmaninov since coming on the scene around 2000. Sitting squarely in the middle of the traditional repertoire comes with the risk of delivering competent but non-novel performances. Bax is stretched in beneficial ways, however, by this collaboration with Britain's youthful Southbank Sinfonia with Simon Over conducting. Artur Schnabel's comment that Mozart's sonatas are too easy for children but too difficult for concert artists applies equally to his piano concertos, and Bax begins with a foundation of clean, competent, but unexciting playing. Along the way, however, he gets pushed beyond that by the very detailed, layered reading of the orchestral parts in these traditional, modern-instrument recordings, and piano and orchestra enter into the kind of spontaneous dialogue that marks a really good Mozart concerto recording. Sample the first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K. 595, with Over's variegated work in the orchestral exposition finds its counterbalance in Bax's hushed, mysterious treatment of the distant harmonic journey to B minor at the beginning of the development section. Another aspect setting this release apart from a host of other straightforward British Mozart concerto releases is the presence of the Eight Variations on Sarti's "Como un agnello" for piano, K. 460, an unaccountably neglected Mozart variation set that goes well with the big Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491, that opens the program. With the average age of the musicians here apparently under 30, this is a release that bodes well for the future of the mainstream Mozart repertory.

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