London Classical Players / Roger Norrington / Melvyn Tan

Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 20, 23, 24 & 25

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Made in 1991 and 1992, these Mozart piano concerto recordings remain among the very best on the market. Conductor Roger Norrington and his London Classical Players were on the early part of the curve in applying the insights of the historical performance movement to Mozart and the rest of the Classical period (including Beethoven) -- and in realizing that historical instruments allow greater expressivity rather than tamping down the music. Norrington's Mozart concertos, with the strands of winds and brass laced through the music coming much more often to the foreground than they would in a conventional performance, open the music out into a wider, airier, more spectacular thing in performances that give an idea of how audiences must have received Mozart's piano concertos, which really inaugurated the form. Hear the startling opening of the Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466, slow-paced, with the brass slashing through the texture. It sounds more Beethovenian than any recording with conventional instruments, but not as much so, in Norrington's reading, as the magnficent, brooding Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491. These are conductor-centered Mozart performances: fortepianist Melvyn Tan's lines, in the main, come off as meditative elaborations of the main thematic material rather than as arrogations of the spotlight. Other fortepianists have found that they can do with their instruments what Norrington does with his orchestra. Yet Tan's quiet approach is a nice foil for Norrington's intensity in the two minor-key concertos, and he never loses momentum in the sprawling opening movement of the Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503. There will always be listeners who prefer the sound of modern instruments and singing strings in Mozart, but even they will likely concede the originality and brilliance of these classic performances, now available at a budget price.

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