Among The Best of the Mozart Concerto Recordings!,
This review is from: Mozart: The Great Piano Concertos (Audio CD)
My first exposure to the D minor concerto was actually a Young Persons' Concert broadcast of the New York Philharmonic back in the early 60s. Although they only did the first movement, I was immediately hooked on it and went out to purchase a copy for my record collection. That recording turned out to be the one by Denis Mathews, and through the years, it has become the standard by which I measure all other recordings. (I actually wore out the first disk I owned, but was able to get a hold of a second copy of the original pressing while they still made it.)
Years later, I was delighted to find that they had finally issued the recordings on CD. The remastering is supurb and both concertos have found their way onto my iPod and in my iTunes collection.
What makes this recording of the D minor so special is what occurs in the second movement. One must remember that Mozart wrote these concertos for him to play, and that usually in the second movement, he would improvise around the written notes, much like it is done in jazz, or like what Bach did back in his day. It is a tradition which all but disappeared in the past century with a few exceptions. ("The Mozart Sessions" with Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea comes to mind as a return to that tradition.) Mathews in his recording of the D-minor does such a fantastic job of improvising around the second theme in the second movement, that if one never heard another recording of that same movement, it would seem like the notes were there in the score. So good, that hearing a performance with just the written notes sounds empty in comparison. These kinds of details are found throughout both the 20th and 23rd concertos.
The balance between the orchestra and soloist is perfect, and considering that these recordings were done in the years before digital came on the scene, they hold up very well (if not better) than more recent discs.
In short, you may already have your favorite recordings of these works. I would definitely make room for these.