MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453; Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488 – Robert Casadesus, piano/ RAI Milan Symphony Orchestra/ Fernando Previtali – Archipel

by | Apr 29, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major, K. 453; Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488 – Robert Casadesus, piano/ RAI Milan Symphony Orchestra/ Fernando Previtali – Archipel ARPCD 0358, 58:09 (Distrib. Qualiton) ****:

Previously unpublished live performances of Mozart concertos with French virtuoso Robert Casadesus (1899-1972) and Fernando Previtali (1907-1985) from Milan, 1956. Noted for his uncannily accurate digital style in Mozart, but also for his relatively fast tempos, Casadesus here, in the G Major Concerto, seems more at leisure, allowing us to savor his music-box sonority and his long line. The sound of his piano can be shrill, a bit boxy, but the elegance of the phrasing remains intact. While I studied with his son Jean at SUNY Binghamton, I never formally met Robert. When Jean taught the Mozart G Major Concerto in class, he insisted we audition his father’s recording with George Szell. Previtali I did see at Carnegie Hall in 1969, and I recall a particularly vivid account of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite.

The approach to the Andante has all the earmarks of a graduated, baroque sarabande, vocally phrased, an extended aria of singular beauty. Poignant drama at Mozart’s key changes. The last movement Allegretto enjoys brisk, scurrying, forward motion, the variants clean and finely articulate. Casadesus points up Mozart’s unbuttoned humor, the stops and starts, which end with a grand hunting motif and rockets from Papageno.  The A Major Concerto never ceases to be a universal favorite for virtuosos and pianist-scholars alike. Its frothy energy and exalted lyricism prove undeniable to anyone with any taste for Mozart.

The F-sharp Major Adagio combines music and mystery, healthy magic. Casadesus plays in an extroverted, brilliant style, pushing the line hard without sacrificing the pearly, even icy, quality of his tone. Fluent piano transition back to the recapitulation of the opening Allegro. Lovely wind serenade work in the secondary theme of the Adagio, especially flute and horn. The last pages of this movement weave a spellbinding aura over everything. Slightly muffled sonics notwithstanding, the Allegro assai, with its grumbly bassoon, keeps moving in celestial circles. Aristocratic, finesse playing by two kindred spirits who take loving pains with Mozart.

— Gary Lemco

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