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Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 15, K.450 & No. 20, K.466

Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 15, K.450 & No. 20, K.466

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Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s piano playing is highly praised for its tremendous reflectiveness. He could spend decades immersing himself in a piece in order to get to know it inside out. His art of touch, his wealth of overtones and his highly refined sense of sound are just as praiseworthy – qualities that came in especially useful for playing Chopin and Debussy. Michelangeli is, however, less known as a Mozart interpreter which makes these 1956 recordings with the orchestra of Süddeutscher Rundfunk conducted by Anton von Bavier so fascinating. Here, Michelangeli presents a life-affirming, even vigorous Mozart with almost Olympian pride. His manner of playing is always forward-pushing, at times boisterously passionate. In his interpretation there is no exaggerated sensitivity, no fiddling with sound, no over-reflectiveness and, in particular, no sentimentality in the slow movements.


SWR has brought out Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s 1956 Ludwigsburg Festival Mozart K. 450 and 466 performances that ICA originally released back in 2013. Reviewing Michelangeli’s EMI 1950 studio recording of K. 450, I wrote how the pianist “subjects each phrase to finely-tuned gradations of touch and dynamic scaling, leaving not one note unscrutinized and unaccounted for.” That’s equally true here, albeit with faster tempos in the outer movements, plus additional vigor and continuity on the soloist’s part, and a better (if not particularly distinctive) orchestra.

Michelangeli’s astonishing command of the D minor concerto’s decorous figurations and strenuous left-hand broken octaves will keep most mortal pianists humble. If Michelangeli’s slow-movement dynamic taperings are decidedly “old-school” in the context of today’s leading Mozart practitioners, at least they’re not so caricatured as in his 1989 DG recording.

The slightly dry and drab-sounding SWR source tape seems to have been reproduced with relatively little intervention, in contrast to ICA’s boosted midrange and hint of added reverberation. Notwithstanding this release’s sonic and stylistic limitations, pianophiles will want to hear Michelangeli on prime form.

-- (Jed Distler)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: SWR Classic Music
    • UPC/Barcode: 747313912988
    • Item Number: SWR19129CD