Murray Perahia / English Chamber Orchestra

Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 17 & 18

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Mainstays in Sony's catalog, Murray Perahia's delightful performances of Mozart's piano concertos certainly warrant inclusion in the Masterworks Expanded Edition, though the differences between this disc and its previous release are slight. The enhancements of Direct Stream Digital and SBM Direct give the original masters a fair boost, but this seems a minimal improvement over the good analog sound. The only other inducement offered to distinguish this disc from its predecessor is the bonus track, Perahia's 1991 digital recording of the Theme and Variations from Mozart's Sonata in A major, K. 331. Perhaps it is acceptable as filler, but this isolated movement seems a little unnecessary, since the complete piece is found on Perahia's album of three Mozart sonatas on Sony. Beyond these considerations, the performances of the piano concertos are extraordinary, and Perahia leads the English Chamber Orchestra from the piano with intelligence, assurance, and warmth. The gorgeous Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K. 453, and the genteel Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, K. 456, are finely rendered, and Perahia plays and conducts with a mature musicality that satisfies completely; leaving aside issues of period performance practice, these performances work splendidly and should please even the most exacting Mozart connoisseur.

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