Helene Grimaud, Mozart: Piano Concerti Nos. 19 & 23

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 11.16.11 in Reviews

Mozart: Piano Concerti Nos. 19 & 23

Helene Grimaud

Grimaud leads the orchestra from the piano, as Mozart did, and there’s a story there: Interpretive differences over Grimaud’s first recording of Mozart concertos caused her break with conductor Claudio Abbado. Although neither party discussed specifics, one might guess, on hearing this recording of the Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488, that they argued over Grimaud’s daring conception of its Adagio, which she plays with time-melting expressiveness, slower (at 7:38) than even those of Perahia (7:27), Ashkenazy (7:31), and Fleisher (7:09); much less Jarrett (6:36), Horowitz (5:34), or Goode (6:46). Her many tempo fluctuations further set it apart. (Like Horowitz, she uses Busoni’s extravagant cadenza in the opening movement.)

Equally passionate and elegant

Her playing in the slow movement of the Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K. 459, is also molded with considerable freedom and variation in tempo, though here she’s not an outlier in length. There’s plenty of light and grace in the faster movements, and the delightful palate cleanser between the concertos, a soprano recitative and rondo from Mozart’s opera Idomeneo — with a prominent piano part — is equally passionate and elegant, and serves as a reminder that there’s plenty of precedent in Mozart’s music for dramatic expressive freedom.