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MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 14 in E-flat; & 26 in D “Coronation” – Tamas Vasary, p. & cond./ Berlin Phil. – Pentatone

MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 14 in E-flat, K. 449; & No. 26 in D, K.537 “Coronation” – Tamas Vasary, p. & cond./ Berlin Phil. – Pentatone multichannel SACD (4.0) PTC 5186 203, 55:13 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Even though Tamas Vasary is well-known for his many recordings of the romantic behemoths Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt and Sergei Rachmaninoff, it was with the music of Mozart that he first appeared on the public stage at the old age of eight in 1941. Not considered one of the towering pianists of the age—or at least with a lesser publicity machine than many of the “greats”—he nevertheless recorded over 20 albums with Deutsche Grammophon alone, and many other labels have been graced with his artistry.

This is another of the four-channel formerly quadraphonic releases from the seventies (1978) that were consigned to oblivion in their originally intended pristine beauties because the technology was not there to support the playback in the homes of most music lovers. It’s the Berlin Philharmonic, in the midst of Karajan leadership, and though the band made some highly variable recordings during this time—some stinkers and some brilliant—this particular one has them playing like angels for Vasary. The big band sound is not over-bloated or diffuse, and the felicities of phrasing and clarity come across nicely in every bar. This is solid Mozart on all accounts, not the best ever recorded, but certainly energetic, poetic, and highly moving. The pairing is also interesting, with the first of the “great” concertos in No. 14 followed by the incomplete and “least” purely Mozart concerto in the hybrid “Coronation”, still with one of the most beautiful slow movements of all time. It was most likely put together from Mozart’s scoring indication by his publisher Johann Andre.

All in all, a fine release well worth acquiring if the need arises!

—Steven Ritter

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