Israeli piano duo Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg -- otherwise known as the Silver Garburg Piano Duo -- makes its recording debut on Oehms Classics with Mendelssohn: Concertos for 2 Pianos and Orchestra, backed by the Bayrische Kammerphilharmonie under the estimable direction of Christopher Hogwood. The recording is clear but a little wimpy and lacking in punch, sort of like a typical classical recording from the 1960s, but there are numerous virtues to this release that more than adequately answer the challenge of the sound. First and foremost is the fine performance of the two stars of the show, the Silver Garburg Piano Duo; the interpretations are well-studied, there's nothing about the parlor piano about them, the two are sensitive and stylish in their approach, and use Mozart's four-hand concertos as their benchmark for understanding what these Mendelssohn concertos are all about, and that works. Hogwood leads a chamber orchestra here -- whereas these pieces are commonly done with full orchestra, though they are not designed to be -- and it's just the right balance of Mozartian grace and Beethovenian power; they sound neither underpowered nor over the top.
The liner notes are laid out in interview form, although they do not identify whether it is Silver or Garburg speaking when a question is answered. One question that gets asked is why are these two concertos so infrequently performed? Well, they are not so bad off: among all pre-1900 four hand piano concerti (excluding J.S. Bach, who did not write for piano, but gets heard there often enough) the Mendelssohn concertos are probably second only to Mozart's in popularity. So perhaps Oehms Classics is not as on board as it should be with this project, yet despite all of that this is still a winning and highly enjoyable album, located well better than midway on the overall quality scale regarding the Mendelssohn four-hand concertos, and it also serves as a cracking debut for the Silver Garburg Piano Duo. Welcome!