Mozart, who composed 21 piano concerti, can be regarded as the “inventor” of the popular piano concerto. Although J.S. Bach and his son had written numerous concerti for harpsichord or fortepiano and orchestra before him, Mozart’s enormous input to the genre is mostly due to his concerti being regarded as ‘popular music’ by his contemporaries: to be enjoyed and quickly replaced by newer works. For this series on four DVDs, the most influential, the most artistically challenging and the most popular piano concerti have been selected to be performed by the best Mozart interpreters of our time. Volume I features pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Homero Francesch each performing a concerto representing a different stage in Mozart's life. The performances on this DVD were shot in highly attractive baroque venues – at the Mozarteum, Salzburg, in Hampton Court Palace, London and in the Christian-Zais-Saal, Wiesbaden – capturing the atmosphere of a performance in Mozart’s lifetime.
The earliest piece on this disc is the delightful Pastorale, written in 1907, when Stravinsky was 25; the latest is the enigmatic Epitaphium, written 52 years later. In between come a clutch of pieces from that fascinating period of Stravinsky’s life when he was moving from Russianism to neo-classicism via jazz. The remaining two, the Octet of 1923 and the Septet of 1953, are both firmly in Stravinsky’s witty, poised neo-classical style, though the Septet is moving towards new, tougher territory. Stravinsky himself made classic recordings of these pieces in the Sixties, now reissued on CD on the Sony label. These are always electric, if sometimes a little untidy, and so closely recorded you feel the players are sitting in your lap. By that lofty benchmark this new recording measures up superbly. Tempos are just as brisk and alert as Stravinsky’s, the accents just as incisive. These qualities are combined with a beautiful soft-grained tone – a nice change from Stravinsky’s lemon-sharp sound.
Mats Lidström is that rare thing, an original musician. The sheer mercurial energy which drives his performances can be both engaging and disturbing, but there is always a searching intelligence at work. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra lost much when its compelling, if unpredictable, lead cellist departed. These two concertos show him at his persuasive best, bringing lesser known works to life. Kabalevsky’s 1964 Concerto stretches and yawns with slow pizzicato before springing into urgent life. Sub-Shostakovich in its motifs and tonality, it is nevertheless well-constructed and uses the saxophone to great effect. In both Allegro movements Lidström achieves a lightning speed and attack and, though Raphael Wallfisch’s recording on Nimbus has a more solid beauty of tone, the Swede’s nervous anticipation makes up for the thinner sound of his Grancino cello. Khachaturian’s 1946 Concerto would make a wonderful soundtrack to a cinematic faux-Oriental extravaganza, with its twisting major and minor intervals, and almost sleazy chromaticism. Lidström really knows how to swing, and makes the most of the memorable melodies.
Following their album of French music for two pianos, father and son Vladimir and Vovka Ashkenazy revel in their musical heritage with this dazzling programme by the great composers of Russia, with Rachmaninov's two-piano Suite No.1 at its heart. Three of the works have been arranged by Vovka Ashkenazy himself, including Mussorgsky's Night On The Bald Mountain and the album's virtuosic finale - Borodin's Polovtsian Dances from his opera Prince Igor. His two-piano arrangement of Glinka's lilting Valse-fantaisie is itself based on Sergei Lyapunov's arrangement for four hands. The two works originally written for two pianos are Rachmaninov's poetic Suite no 1, Op. 5 "Fantaisie Tableaux" (which the young composer dedicated to another giant of Russian music - Piotr Tchaikovsky) and the Fantasy in A minor by Rachmaninov's contemporary at the Moscow Conservatoire, Scriabin.
With this disc, Vladimir Ashkenazy, celebrated for his readings of Rachmaninoff and Chopin, and his son, Vovka, take on music by Debussy and Ravel for two pianos, and the results, utterly unlike virtually anything Ashkenazy père has ever recorded before, make it a real winner. From the electric excitement of the opening En blanc et noir, through the hazy mysteries of Jeux, and the luminous colors of the Rapsodie espagnole, to the inexorable hysteria of La Valse, Ashkenazy père and fils turn in performances that match the music for poise, drive, and technical brilliance. Some might find their sonorities a bit hard-edged at points – should the opening of En blanc et noir and the close of La Valse really be hit so strongly? – but the results are so consistently thrilling that most listeners are likely to be swept away. Recorded in close but clear and vivid digital sound, this disc may not be for every Debussy and Ravel fan, but it should certainly appeal to fans of Ashkenazy.
This brilliant audiophile download brings together the exquisite trio of Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Lynn Harrell. The trio displays effortless virtuosity and lyricism, delivering a flawless rendition of a true masterpiece. The album would win the GRAMMY® for Best Chamber Music Performance. This album is absolutely essential.
Even though Vladimir Ashkenazy is most often celebrated for his brilliantly virtuosic interpretations of Romantic repertoire, his skills in playing works of the Classical era are just as worthy, as proved by this 10-disc set from London of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's piano concertos. These performances span a period from 1966 to 1988, capturing a youthful and vigorous Ashkenazy playing and conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra from the keyboard, in approved Mozartian fashion. All of the keyboard concertos are here, including the official 27 concertos for piano and orchestra, the Concerto for two pianos in E flat major, K. 365, the Concerto for three pianos in F major, K. 242, as well as the two Rondos K. 382 and K. 386. Ashkenazy's elegant playing has been highly praised by critics and placed on a level with his esteemed contemporaries Murray Perahia, Daniel Barenboim, and Alfred Brendel, all past masters of Mozart's primary medium of expression.