MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K, 467; Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491 – Dinu Lipatti, piano/ Walter Gieseking, piano/ Lucern Festival Orchestra/ Philharmonia Orchestra/ Herbert von Karajan – EMI Classics

by | Nov 9, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K, 467; Piano
Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491 – Dinu Lipatti, piano (K. 467)/
Walter Gieseking, piano (K. 491)/ Lucern Festival Orchestra (K. 467)/
Philharmonia Orchestra (K. 491)/ Herbert von Karajan

EMI Classics 7243 4 76884 2  61:08 ****:

Excellent vintage Mozart under the hands of two of the most eminent
pianists of their time, Roumanian virtuoso Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950) and
Walter Gieseking (1895-1956), both working with the headstrong Herbert
von Karajan. The performance of the C Major Concerto from 23 August
1950 with Lipatti is before a live audience, and it captures the
steely-fingered Lipatti quite near the end of his brief, tragic life,
as his brilliant flame was to be snuffed out by leukemia. Not that
there is a hint of weakness in the collaboration. Ever the master of
both composition and musical recreation, Lipatti supplies his own
cadenzas in the course a tempestuous, often colossal rendition,
virtually a musical response to Dylan Thomas’ admonition not “to go
gently into that good night.” Tensions between Lipatti’s suave
romanticism and Karajan’s severe, classical lines manage to create a
highly charged drama – giocoso, lyrical and operatically grand.
Lipatti’s is not a particularly soft patina; his digital accuracy and
pungent articulation of each tone could perhaps be rivaled by
Michelangeli. Karajan adds his own propulsion and explosive dynamism to
the heady mix, and the result is a rendition of incredible staying
power.

Walter Gieseking embodies a different pedigree than that of Lipatti, a
softer patina which some critics find a bit precious. But Gieseking
surveyed the Mozart piano concertos quite extensively, rivaled at the
time only by Rudolf Serkin, until integralists like Geza Anda and
Murray Perahia came along. The performance of 25-26 August 1953 offers
a dire union of opposites, with Karajan’s orchestra a kind of tragic
chorus to the lyric plaints of Gieseking’s piano. High nervous energy
reigns supreme, although the spun-out keyboard line provides a fluent,
multichromatic pastiche where flute, horn, oboe, strings and piano
combine with whiplash effect. The pungency of the Philharmonia string
section suggests an apocalyptic reckoning is at hand. There may be some
sonic deterioration in the master tape, since I could hear sloughing in
the sound in movement one. But the pristine flavor of Gieseking’s piano
line remains musically intriguing at every turn. He plays the Hummel
cadenza in the first movement,  with its virtuoso runs. The
child-like simplicity of Mozart’s opening theme in the Larghetto is
Wordsworth and Blake at once. The leisurely tempo in the Larghetto and
the often bucolic gurglings from the winds in the Allegretto do not
disperse the melancholy that pervades the concerto, and the more
militant variations in the finale have Gieseking in a rare percussive
fettle. Oddly marketed when it first appeared on LP (with Chopin’s
Barcarolle), perhaps Gieseking’s C Minor Concerto, now having been
paired with Lipatti’s C Major Concerto on CD, will receive the
attention and recognition it deserves.

–Gary Lemco

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