There appear to be no less than three labels involved in this release: Calig, which issued these performances in 1998; Hänssler Classics, a minor but important European label owned by entrepreneur Gunther Hänssler, who has now launched a new label, Profil, which has released these fine performances in a handsome, 9-CD boxed set. I have always liked Brendel in Mozart's Concertos, but have found individual performances by Serkin, Richter, Perahia and a few others to my liking. This set by Buchbinder deserves to stand with the best complete sets, and with many of the most compelling individual performances of the concertos, as well.
His #22 is brilliant and imaginative, easily among the finest interpretations of this concerto. But then #20 and 23 are excellent too, and though one could cherry-pick other performances from among the remainder as outstanding, not one is less than compelling and insightful by pianist/conductor Buchbinder. His Vienna Symphony responds well too, sounding as fine collectively as the city's better-known Vienna Philharmonic.
One thing that is outstanding in this set is the sense that Buchbinder and company perform each concerto as if they are totally at ease and fully immersed in the music's idiom. Everything flows naturally but with a sense of freshness: hear the many shades of lyrical expression in Buchbinder's inspired account of #22's central Andante, or listen to the sprightly bounce and sparkling wit of the same work's finale.
No. 20, probably my favorite Mozart Concerto, comes across with appropriate grimness and tragedy in the stormy first movement, but Buchbinder also manages to impart a sense of urgency to the music here, both in his conducting and playing. The second movement conveys a playful innocence in the treatment of the main theme alright, but with a subtle feeling of darkness hovering above the proceedings. And the finale, with its mixture of the serious and playful, has rarely sounded so perfect in balancing all the disparate elements. Partisans of #21 will hear a most imaginative phrasing of the famous 'Elvira Madigan' theme, first in the lyrical sweep of the strings' opening treatment, then in Buchbinder's subtle rendering, where he gives greater prominence to the crucial bass notes in the melody's latter phrases.
Recorded live at the Vienna Konzerthaus (with a very quiet audience), these recordings feature vivid sound and fine notes, in German and English. If I had to live with one cycle of the Mozart Concertos, this brilliant effort by Buchbinder would be my choice. Highest recommendations.
Copyright © 2005, Robert Cummings