Pascal Rogé

Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 9 & 25; Rondo

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English label Onyx has begun to earn a reputation for adventurous programming over its young life. The combination of Mozart piano concertos heard here is an extremely common one, but this modern-instrument performance (there is not even a nod in the direction of historical performance) nevertheless could qualify as adventurous. One novel point is that soloist Pascal Rogé is known as a specialist in the music of Debussy and his contemporaries, not in Mozart. Does he make Mozart sound like Debussy? Yes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as he applies the technique here. Rogé offers a wide, subtly shaded, even impressionistic palette of tones and attacks, but he harnesses them to the clear, ambitious classical architecture of these concertos. Consider the opening of the Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major, where the piano's unprecedented appearance in the music's first consequent phrase must have caused considerable shock to Mozart's first hearers. The usual way is to take this passage matter-of-factly, but Rogé gets more out of it, asserting the piano's independence with a slight, sprightly emphasis. His slow movement is restrained and purple-hued, but his finale is fleet and extremely energetic, making for quite a degree of contrast among the three movements of the concerto. Although the Piano Concertos No. 9 and No. 25 are often paired as examples of Mozart's large-scale architectural thinking, they are treated here in entirely different ways. In the Concerto No. 25, Rogé's piano is, if not exactly subsidiary, at least a calm foil to the Indianapolis Symphony under Raymond Leppard, who proffer a heavy reading that takes the music into the realm of Beethoven's first symphony. The presence of the Indianapolis group is another noteworthy feature of this British release, but the musicians acquit themselves as well as any of the better-known English groups featured on Leppard's numerous other recordings. A certain hint of harshness and lack of clarity in the strings is likely due to recording techniques that attempted to capture the colorful playing of Rogé at the orchestra's expense. There are numerous other choices for these concertos, but this one is never dull.

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