Maria João Pires

With Passion

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If you don't already know Portuguese pianist Maria-João Pires, there's every reason to get this two-disc set. There's the exquisite beauty of her Mozart F major Sonata from 1990, the restless intimacy of her Schubert Drei Klavierstücke from 1997, the unbearable intensity of her Chopin Nocturnes from 1995, the reckless fervor of her Schumann Concerto with Claudio Abbado leading the Chamber Orchestra of Europe from 1997, and the transcendent rapture of her Mozart A major Concerto with Frans Brüggen leading the Mozarteum-Orchester Salzburg from 1995. If you do already know Pires and you already have all her released recordings on DG, Erato, and Denon, there's still one reason to get this two-disc set: the previously unreleased Mozart A major recorded live at the Salzburg Festival by Austrian Radio. As with all Pires' recorded performances, her tone here is supple but strong, her colors are warm but brilliant, her interpretations are emotional but controlled, and her technique is imperious but selfless. Abbado's accompaniment is faithful and affectionate, while Brüggen's is faithful and challenging, but Pires' playing is always at once assertive and reserved -- and DG's digital sound is always clear and deep.

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