The Deutsche Grammophon label has offered a series of teenage prodigies, not all of whom have lived up to their billing. This release by Polish-born Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, just 17 and looking not entirely unlike Justin Bieber, may make a bigger splash than most. You might guess from the sheer daring of the interpretations, especially that of the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, that you were dealing with extreme youth here, but no insufficiency of technique or tone gives it away. The Piano Concerto No. 20 is really impressive. Lisiecki and conductor Christian Zacharias, leading the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, set out to create a real old-school recording of this most stormy of Mozart's concertos, and they succeed in forging something that's quite detailed and coherently worked out. It might also be called over the top, but that's something to be decided by the individual listener Lisiecki deploys a big sound, and he and Zacharias add on tempo variations, ornaments, and sudden dramatic gestures, topping the whole thing off with Beethoven's underutilized cadenza for the first movement. It's sort of as if one of the big Russian-schooled pianists of the middle part of the last century had decided to record the work with Leopold Stokowski as conductor, and Zacharias' contribution is key: he ruffles the orchestra's strings into spiky little attacks. In the Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467, they are not quite as distinctive, but the breadth and control of Lisiecki's playing is nevertheless impressive, and in a world in which young students are disinclined to take chances he deserves all kinds of credit.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466|
|Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467|