Mozart – Piano Concertos Nos. 19 & 23
Hélène Grimaud, piano
Mojka Erdmann, soprano
Kammerorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Radoslaw Szulc, leader
Deutsche Grammophon, 2011
Every time an album features Hélène Grimaud, you know it is going to be a gem. The same happens with Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 19 & 23, recorded live by Grimaud and the Kammerorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Together, they bring out all the sumptuous grace and charm of the two concertos, with consummate virtuoso skills on Grimaud’s part and with smooth, lively playing on the part of the orchestra.
Hélène Grimaud Plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19 (K459)
The first Piano Concerto, No. 19 (K459) is the most vivacious of the two and the orchestra is particularly effective in revealing its bright colours and light shades. For example, listen to the delightful sound of the woodwinds at the beginning of the first movement, Allegro vivace.
Grimaud is not less than the orchestra. In her performance, you feel a sense of delicate joy. When she enters in the first movement after the long orchestral introduction, you are immediately fascinated by the exquisite way in which she makes her piano sound. The same emotion reappears every time she interacts with the orchestra.
In the course of the concerto, you realize that this delicacy is actually the key through which Grimaud wants to interpreter Mozart’s music: listen to her graceful playing in the Allegretto, and to the effervescence of the Allegro assai and you will have a precise idea of how meaningful this style is.
Hélène Grimaud Plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 (K488)
The other concerto (K488) is definitely more vague and thoughtful in its mood. This time, in the orchestra you appreciate the considered and relaxed playing. The colours, which were so bright in the K459, now are slightly melancholic.
As for Grimaud, she is as riveting as she was in the previous concerto. Her rendition of the cadenza (written by Ferruccio Busoni) is marvellous, but it is the slow movement (Adagio) which deserves more attention. There, the intense feeling of nostalgia Grimaud is able to inspire through her fingers is particularly noteworthy for its confident honesty. The Allegretto assai is livelier and it seems that some optimism is finally restored. In this final movement, Grimaud reaches new heights of virtuosity and her playing seems unrestrained so much is concise.
Mojka Erdmann Sings Ch’io mi scordi di te?
Mojka Erdmann sings the recitative and aria Ch’io mi scordi di te? … Non temer, amato bene, which is placed between the two concertos in the middle of the recording. Erdmann, as I wrote also when I reviewed Mozart’s Don Giovanni, where she sang Zerlina, has a beautiful voice and great musicality, but she sings in a shy, weak way and she does not make an astonishing impression. This aria is well performed, but it lacks its verve.
In the end, Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 19 & 23 have found in Hélène Grimaud a sensitive and accomplished performer. She is equally praiseworthy for her dazzling technique and for her sensitivity as an interpreter. Furthermore, the Kammerorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks is as admirable as the soloist for its commitment and energy.