Piano Concertos 21 & 22 Import
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Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 21 & 22
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The young, articulate, passionate American pianist, Jonathan Biss, an exclusive artist for EMI Classics, returns with his muchanticipated fourth album for the label featuring Mozart's Piano Concerti Nos.21 and22, joined by the Grammy®-Award winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (sans conductor). Mozart's Piano Concerto No.21 in C is one of the greatest and most well-known of his 27 piano concerti, with its meditative slow movement used in numerous films (often called the Elvira Madigan Concerto).
Digital Booklet: Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 21 & 22
Digital Booklet: Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 21 & 22
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Top Customer Reviews
The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is known for playing without a conductor to beautiful effect. The players must all have a very clear understanding of the musical structure and must be very good listeners. The result of their play is so convincing that you will find yourself ordering more copies of this CD for your family and friends, as I did.
A streaming audio interview with the artist is available at:
On this marvelous disc, Biss is joined by the justly renowned Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. They are an independent-minded group of players who eschew a conductor in favor of working intensely with one another under varied, rotating leaders chosen from among them according to repertoire, work by work. At the moment, Orpheus has not been very active in the recent recording catalog, lacking a settled contract with any of the major recording companies. In this commercial contract marginalization, Orpheus joins nearly every other major musical band in USA. So far, MIAs include the major orchestras of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, plus others. The only USA band currently appearing regularly on Pentatone is Pittsburg. Dallas under Andrew Litton has shown up on British Hyperion. Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago have responded by establishing their own orchestra labels, which are offering us listeners some of the best of new releases.
The two piano concertos here at hand involve Mozart 21, and 22. Twenty-one became popularized as the slow movement's accompaniment sound track in Stanley Kubrick's film, Elvira Madigan, rather just as the sunrise musical opening of Richard Strauss' tone poem, Zarathustra, has become synonymous with Kubrick's film, 2001. Both works have withstood the ensuing popularization owing to their musical values, the Mozart not least because 21 is a height reached, among Mozart's last ten or twelve piano concertos. Even pianists who do not aspire to know and play all of the piano concertos will take leave to focus on 20 or 21 or 23, or 24, and that as deeply as possible since both are inexhaustible treasures.
Lastingly beautiful readings of 21 have already been captured on disc by the likes of Clara Haskil, Artur Rubinstein, Clifford Curzon, Robert Casadesus, Piotr Anderszewski, Paul Badura-Skoda in Prague, Rudolf Serkin, Annie Fischer, Eugene Istomin, Dinu Lipatti, Maria Tipo, Andras Schiff, Stefan Scheja, Fou Ts'ong, Radu Lupu, Wilhelm Kempff, former Rubinstein student Dubravka Tomsic, John O'Conor, ...teen prodigy Helen Huang, and (with the Julliard Orchestra) that grande dame of the Russian school Rosina Lhevinne. Via complete sets of all the piano concertos, we also get strong readings of 21 from: Murray Perahia, Alfred Brendel, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Geza Anda, Daniel Barenboim, Derek Han, Mitsuko Uchida, and Matthias Kirschnereit. If a listener is a fan of original instruments doing Mozart, Malcom Bilson and Jos van Immerseel offer fortepiano readings with gut stringed bands.
In such a crowded field with such varied excellence and elegance, Jonathan Biss cannot quite expect to shove any of these strong previous readings of concerto 21 aside. Yet his own youthful musical savvy is such that he can readily be admitted to nearly anybody's fav shelves. Biss plays Mozart in modern mode. He is like Wilhelm Kempff, Gieseking, or Backhaus insofar as he never tries to suggest with pedal techniques what his hands cannot quite physically accomplish. Neither Biss nor the band offers a single undue ounce of extra sentimental fat, though their phrasing is shaped and shapely and elegant by wonderful turns. This means that we hear this Mozart - above all, clear, clean, bracing, pristine. Think absolutely fresh spring water in some northern clime, not transparently languid south sea Pacific beaches. The chamber orchestra joins Biss in high, even merry spirits, as if this concerto were going to be followed later in the evening by, say, excerpts from Cosi fan tutte.
Given the melancholy sadness all shadows that some say do linger more deeply in the 21st concerto, this Biss-Orpheus reading may be controversial among some listeners. The complainers will fault both the pianist and the band for not going deeper, darker, digging edges down into more Romantic and dangerous interpretive emotional soil.
Be that as it may, I still hear Biss and Orpheus as keepers in strong running.
Then we come to concerto 22, and the keeper deal is clinched. I confess that concerto 22 has never quite jelled to me as a listener - an sort of plain duckling among the composer's later concertos, waiting its transformation into a fairy tale Swan? I've sat through fine readings by famous Mozarteans like Alicia de Larrocha, Sviatoslova Richter, Annie Fischer, Edwin Fischer, Andras Schiff, and all the available complete concerto sets - but only Biss and Orpheus now win me completely over. I can never again hear this 22nd concerto as lacking. Just as a live concerto performance of the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto by Clifford Curzon finally revealed that work's depth and magic to me in one grand stroke, so this reading of 22 reveals spirited, lovely Mozart to me, with the band helping everything all along, all the time, because of Orpheus' bottomless energy and involvement. Now I suspect I can return to all the other readings, only to find positives in them that eluded my hearing, earlier?
Together, Biss and Orpheus display such flexible playing together that the chamber-music intimacy may seem a tad controversial to some listeners. As if we were going to get these concertos in one of those string quartet accompanied outings, located in a palace banquet hall somewhere in the vicinity of old Vienna with all the players wearing livery. But Orpheus is just glorious, along with Biss, so thanks all around. Intimacy, and wit, all most welcome.
Time for EMI to do another complete concerto Mozart set? With Biss and Orpheus?
Biss combines a sense of architecture in shaping both movements and complete concerto with technical finesse that is as fine as we are likely to hear from any pianist. His phrasing is eloquent, his fingers flying through the rapid passages and lingering with quiet sensitivity in the slower passages. With Biss at the keyboard there is a sense of security that radiates through the orchestra and to the listener and the result is Mozart at his effervescent and languishing melodic best.
In a survey of the number of recordings of both of these Mozart concerti there are many with individual moments of greatness. The difference with this performance is that Jonathan Biss goes straight to the heart of the composer and without imposing his personality on the works he allows all of the joy to be Mozart! Highly recommended. Grady Harp, December 08
The problem is that Piano Concetos #21 (K. 467) and #22 (K. 482) can't be turned over to a conductorless orchestra, and a reduced one at that with thrity musicians (including 11 violins, 4 cellos). Proficient as the Orpheus Chamber Orch. is, these masterpieces require an interpreter on the podium, whereas what we have here is an imprsonal, flattened reading of the notes. The soloist sounds detached from the instrumental background behind him as he makes his expressive points. The overall effect is light, upbeat, and fresh, but that's not enough. Mozart is the last composer whose music plays itself.
I think the absence of a strong conductor leaves Biss without that added touch of collaborative inspiration. Sample the famous slow movement in K. 467 -- you'[ll hear no point of view in the beautiful orchestral tutti that opens the movement, only a prettily spun melody.
The soloist enters with assured touch and refined phrasing, two traits Biss shows throughout this CD, yet I wasn't moved.
The best I can say is that these are festive, high-spirited glosses. I'm grateful, however, that no period touches were applied; we get full-bodied execution on modern instruments by deep-dyed professionals. And since Biss is such a joy on his own, four stars are well deserved.
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