Mikhail Pletnev

Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 9 "Jeunehomme" & 24

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Mikhail Pletnev's recordings of Mozart have generated love and hate in equal measure, making this budget-priced reissue (information of all kinds is sparse in the packaging) a good choice for those who want to try them out. The concerto makes a good medium in which to experience Pletnev's Mozart; he conducts the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie from the keyboard and shapes the orchestral passages to match his idiosyncratic but exciting piano style. Thus that style appears in somewhat less sharp relief, one might say, than in Pletnev's performance of Mozart's piano sonatas, which have inspired a similarly diverse set of reactions. Pletnev is fast, extremely fluid, and a bit showy; although he is never out to shock, he freely remakes the shapes of lines and whole movements to suit his own conceptions. In Mozart's first major concerto masterpiece, the Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major, K. 271, he achieves a sustained and delightfully airy presence within the large spaces, the suddenly vast structural thinking, of the music. The slow movement, taken fairly slowly, is a calm tombeau; the finale, with its unexpected interpolation of a minuet passage and other material seemingly extraneous to the main thematic structure, plays nicely to Pletnev's quasi-improvisatory instincts. The usually Beethovenian Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491, will be less successful for many listeners. Pletnev tamps the orchestra down and diminishes the individualistic role of the soloist in a concerto that seems to demand it most. His performance nevertheless doesn't sound like any other on the market, and there are doubtless listeners who have found it revelatory. The opportunity for sampling offered by modern technology has never been more useful than with Pletnev's Mozart, which is certainly admirable in the way it challenges listeners to decide for themselves.

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