This work is very hard to characterize emotionally, but it sighs and it sings enigmatically. Surprisingly, so many performances are very straightforward, never capturing these soulful, longing qualities that almost approach reverie at times. Not so this time. The interplay here is amazing, Pires' delicate approach is ideal for this music, and the conducting is elastic in that "Furtwanglerian" way. But don't get the impression this is bloated, Romantic Mozart…it's not. (Maybe Furtwangler wasn't the right name to evoke after all.
Maria-Joào Pires has recorded these concertos before, for Erato, and this experience shows in assured playing. In K449 I find the sound of the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded in Vienna's Musikverein, too big: the string section seems large and the hall over-reverberant. Furthermore, the piano sounds plummy, and even those who dislike the fortepiano may question its suitability. With these reservations, one can enjoy Pires's deft and sensitive performance, without strong individuality but offering consistent intelligence, and the brisk finale shows her and Abbado at their best. Even so, this is a romanticized slow movement; the gooey orchestral sound does not help, but the pianist is also partly responsible in a way that I have sometimes noted in her performances of Mozart's sonatas.
As one might have imagined, if Russian super-virtuoso-pianist-turned-conductor Mikhail Pletnev was going to try a couple of Mozart concertos on for size, it makes sense they'd be the D minor and the A major. With the D minor's driven outer movements and the A major's nocturnal central movement, these are two of Mozart's most nearly Romantic concertos. And, as a Russian super-virtuoso pianist, Pletnev naturally had to interpret them in a Romantic manner.
Hungarian pianist Annie Fischer suffered reprisals for her Jewish background, but after the Second World War she enjoyed her international breakthrough with Mozart playing of gentle elegance, supple virtuosity and dramatic power.
Here's a piece you don't often hear performed in concert: Mozart's Divertimento in B flat major, K. 254 (aka, his Piano Trio No. 1). While the other five works in the same form are performed frequently by virtue of their later date of composition, the early Trio No. 1 is not only rarely performed in concert, it's usually recorded only in context of all the other trios. And so it is here: Trio No. 1 leads off this 2007 Hyperion disc by England's Florestan Trio, and, naturally, it is followed by two later trios – No. 2 in G major, K. 496, and No. 5 in C major, K. 548.