Paul Badura-Skoda

Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 21 & 12

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Veteran Austrian pianist Paul Badura-Skoda, whose career goes back to the immediate post-World War II period, has returned late in life to Mozart's piano concertos, which he must have performed or recorded hundreds of times. When this pair was recorded in 2006, he was close to 80 years old. These recordings aren't a formal series; they've appeared irregularly, on various labels, with both live and studio recordings included. Badura-Skoda isn't trying to make a striking final "statement" in this performance of two perennial favorites among the Mozart concertos; this recording from Prague's Studio Domovina, with Badura-Skoda conducting the Prague Chamber Orchestra, has more of the flavor of a great artist re-traversing beloved territory in a relaxed way. If there's distinctive news here it's that, although Badura-Skoda was a pioneer among mainstream pianists in adopting historical instruments, he returns to a modern piano for his final recordings. But in the moderate size of the musical forces, the clarity of textures, and the combination of lightness and expressive freedom these two readings reflect the influence of the historical-performance movement. Badura-Skoda seems to lead us through the music, pointing out a detail here and there, and the overall effect is deeply satisfying. Sample the famous slow movement of the Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467 (track 2), a favorite ever since its appearance in the hit 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan; it has rarely been so languorously and ultimately hypnotically done, but it is never pushed beyond the basic boundaries of Mozart's world. Like Badura-Skoda's other 21st century releases, this is well worth having for the confirmed Mozart-ite.

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