Four Concertos, Four Pianists
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 12/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD contains two of Mozart's greatest piano concertos (Nos. 17 and 27) and two quite early concerti, all filmed in 1989 and 1990. The latter might not be so interesting in themselves, perhaps, except that the earliest is played by a great pianist, Malcolm Frager, who died only a year later. This is possibly the last time he was filmed. He plays Concerto No. 5 in D Major, K. 175 with the Orchestra of the Italian Radio of Switzerland under the direction of Marc Andreae. As a longtime follower of Frager's career it was bittersweet to see him smiling serenely to himself at the felicities of this rather simple concerto, written when Mozart was only seventeen. It's a magical performance filmed in the Bibiena Theatre in Mantua. The next concerto presented here, No. 8 in C Major, K. 246, was written three years later, and does show an advance in style and complexity. It is still fairly early Mozart, though, and certainly not as breathtaking as the concerti to follow - the 'Jeunehomme' which followed immediately, and the glorious two-piano concerto, No. 10. Still, when you have a pianist as marvelous as the very young Christian Zacharias (only now being recognized as one of the great pianists around) accompanied by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony under Gianluigi Gelmetti, you can be assured of a masterful performance. The Rondo finale is particularly choice.
What follows next, though, are two performances to conjure with. The Concerto No. 17 in G, K. 453, is played by Deszo Ránki, a fine Mozartian (I can remember a very early CD in which he played the three-piano concerto with András Schiff and Zoltan Kocsis, a recording I darn near played to death). And he is accompanied by another fine Mozartean, Jeffrey Tate, leading the English Chamber Orchestra. The suavity of the orchestra's playing outshines that of the two earlier concerti.
The highlight of this DVD is the playing of a pianist I'd never heard of before, Alexandar Madzar, a very young, very tall, very skinny Serbian who has a more than passing resemblance to Adrian Brody who played Wladyslaw Szpilman in the movie, 'The Pianist.' That's irrelevant, I suppose, but still I kept noting it as I watched this young man play a beautifully nuanced performance of what is perhaps the noblest of all of Mozart's piano concertos. That he is accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic led by André Previn is a plus. (And, by the way, Previn plays and conducts from the keyboard another of the concertos on one of the other DVDs in this series - No. 23 in A Major.) Of particular note are both the world-weary Larghetto and the rumbustious Allegro finale, taken just a little bit slower than we are used to, but with high spirits withal. I have no idea what has happened to Mr. Madzar since 1991 when this film was made, but am surprised I'd never encountered even his name before.
No. 8 was filmed at the Schwetzingen Palace in Germany; Concertos No. 17 and 27 were both filmed in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. All three venues (not forgetting the Teatro Bibiena) are beautiful.
Sound: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and reportedly DTS 5.1 but it didn't sound any different to me, than the Dolby and I think these performance took place before DTS was extant. Region code: 0 (worldwide)