Martha Argerich / Claudio Abbado / Orchestra Mozart

Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 20 & 25

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Recorded live in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 2013, shortly before the death of conductor Claudio Abbado (who must have been quite ill at the time), this pair of Mozart piano concertos stands as a fitting valediction to his legacy. The liquid playing of star pianist Martha Argerich is a major contributor to the success of the performances, it's true. But really this is a Mozart performance shaped by the conductor, and Abbado's subtlety in his old age is remarkable to hear. In the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, he generates a great deal of tension without resorting to the Beethovenian mode of expression that is the norm for this concerto these days. The turn to D major at the end of the finale is utterly delightful in the hands of Abbado and Argerich, not a Romantic conceit like sunlight breaking through storm clouds but a quintessentially ingenious Mozartian ornament. The Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503, Mozart's longest concerto, offers a lot to chew on, with the framework of the vast first movement and its almost neutral thematic material developed in large motions. The live sound is impressively clear, and in general this is a marvelous statement from the last months of a great conductor's life.

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