Derek Han / Massimo Quarta / Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Derek Han Plays Mozart

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It's not clear why pianist Derek Han, American of Chinese descent, gets top billing on this release by London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra when second pianist Wu Han (apparently unrelated) has parts of equal importance in the two full-scale concertos included, the Concerto for three pianos and orchestra in F major, K. 242, and the Concerto for two pianos and orchestra in E flat major, K. 365. (The third piano part in the former concerto, taken by the youthful Peter Asimov, is simpler and clearly subsidiary.) Indeed, one of the strengths of this recording is the way the two pianists differentiate their personalities in the two-piano concerto's outer movements, with the second pianist (presumably Wu Han) answering the first's phrases in broader consequent statements. Overall these are strong performances of these works in the traditional modern-grand large-orchestra style, with clean, bright piano sound standing up to the RPO's strings, and the assembled musicians make an especially good case for the arguably lightweight three-piano concerto in this setting; in symphony-orchestra performances the work can collapse under its own weight, but here the players keep things moving and catch the element of sheer brilliant display, made easy by Mozart for his trio of female piano students. Han is solo in two rondos for piano and orchestra, both probably alternate finales for existing concertos, and his playing has the same virtues throughout. The sound quality is just middling, but there's an appealing confident flair here that gives the recording the crucial Mozart X factor.

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