MOZART: Piano Concertos No. 12 in A, K 414; No. 23 in A, K 488 – Marianna Shirinyan, p./ Odense Sym. Orch./ Scott Yoo – Bridge 9408, 52:10 [Distr. by Albany] *****:

It’s a little confusing as to what is going on with Bridge’s Mozart Concerto project. Gary Lemco reviewed—enthusiastically—volumes one and also two with Vassily Primakov and this same Odense Symphony. Volume three seems to have eluded us, but included Concertos 17 and 23, returning to conductor Scott Yoo. Now along comes volume four with Yoo and the Odense once again, but this time the pianist changes. So I don’t know if this was the intention all along or not—Primakov looks to have switched to LP Classics, but these days cross-recording on multiple labels is not unusual.

At any rate, the new pianist, Marianna Shirinyan, who has been active for about ten years now, is hardly a loss. In fact, in many ways I think she surpasses Primakov, fine as he is. Shirinyan is no china doll, and her Mozart, continuing the series with big-band, adult Mozart, is absolutely superb. These two A-major concertos are wonderful examples of Mozart’s mature, dramatic, and highly operatic art, as the booklet notes are perceptive enough to point out. Even No. 12, listed in the middle but actually the first in a series of three that Mozart designated with “optional” wind parts and that could be played with string quartet, has all the markings of his mature style. But memorable as it is, it pales when compared to No. 23, a highly energetic and utterly irrepressible work that exults, plunges us into pathos, and then pulls out of the watery depths again. It takes quite a magician to manage the mood swings, but Shirinyan does it, and turns in one of the most poetic second movements I have ever heard. Only a distance of four years separate the two concertos, but Mozart melancholia was never as intense as in this movement, one of his most miraculous melodies ever, and the change of pace into the last movement takes a lot of cold water in the face to meet the difficulties.

The sound is robust and clean, and very full, making for a series to continue to watch, and a pianist who deserves a large slice of this particular pie. Let’s hope that the folks at Bridge realize it.

—Steven Ritter