MOZART: Piano Concertos No 17 K.453 & 20 K.466 – Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano and cond. the Orchestra di Padova e Del Veneto – Exton/Octavia multichannel SACD 170, 63 mins. [Distr. by Allegro] ***:
Vladimir Ashkenazy continues his fascination with Mozart’s piano concertos, this time with what may be the first installment in a new cycle. The concertos in question are 17 in G Major, one of the most fleet-footed and intoxicating of the set, and the demonic 20 in D Minor.
Ashkenazy’s performances are not driven in the manner of Edwin Fischer nor do they explore unexpected nooks and crannies. Instead, they inhabit that safe Mozartian middle ground, not unaware but not beholden to authentic performances practice principles, which provides warm and friendly listening enjoyment without shedding new light on acknowledged masterpieces.
The strings are alert if not exactly twinkle-toed, while the woodwinds have a nice bloom and timbre when they are allowed to make themselves heard.
The sound is balanced slightly in favor of the piano, with the winds particularly laid back, but Ashkenazy plays with such discreet delicacy and clarity that the musical balance seems natural throughout, especially since the cadenzas (Beethoven in K.466) are kept at the same volume as the tuttis, relatively speaking.
So, overall, pleasant and a gift for Ashkenazy fans.
– Laurence Vittes