Director/Author/Cast: Christian Zacharias , Ivan Klansky , Wolfgang
Features: Color, Soundtrack English, Standard Screen
“Anyone who has not seen Lupu play, must...sonically, he is an absolute wonder, a transcendent artist, a man who uses the piano to express ideas and emotions untapped in most people’s daily life.”
--The Seattle Times on Lupu's Mozart interpretation
“The entire performance was a tonic and a celebration (...) Zacharias is the most convincing of Mozarteans.” --The Los Angeles Times on Zacharias’ Mozart interpretation
“Klánský’s playing was both moving and magical and had elan and brilliance alternating with pathos.” --Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Klánský’s Mozart interpretation
This DVD is one of a series of the Mozart piano concertos recorded about eighteen years ago in gorgeous European venues each featuring a different pianist, conductor and orchestra. This one has three of the finest pianists playing these days: Radu Lupu, Christian Zacharias and Ivan Klánský. And three fine conductors: David Zinman, Jiri Behlolavek, and Gianluigi Gelmetti.
Christian Zacharias has become rather a cult figure in recent years. He is not as well-known as some but among piano cognoscenti he is extremely well-regarded. In this DVD the very young Zacharias plays the early concerto, No. 6 in B Flat, K. 238. It is not one of Mozart's most popular concerti, nor should it be; it is more galant and easy-to-take than profound or moving. But it is Mozart, after all, and it has many felicities that no other composer could provide. For instance, the Andante movement has two of those patented singing Mozartean melodies; Schubert must certainly have known this concerto, I'm guessing. Another unusual thing about this concerto written solely as a crowd-pleaser is that all three movements end quietly. Zacharias, noted for his extremely clean and neatly articulated playing (he's a marvelous Scarlatti player, for instance) is perfect for this work. Listen to the pearly runs in both outer movements. Gelmetti, known primarily as an opera conductor, along with his orchestra, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony, gives the soloist sensitive support.
Radu Lupu is surely one of the most poetic pianists alive. I treasure the one concert in which I heard him play, and among my desert island discs is the CD of four-hand and two piano music of Mozart and Schubert (the heavenly Fantasia in F Minor, D. 940, for piano four-hands) played by Lupu and Murray Perahia. Lupu's address at the piano reminds me of that of Artur Rubinstein. He is a short man who sits absolutely upright at the keyboard, seemingly needing only his fingers to make his effects. In this performance, one of the greatest I've ever heard of the No. 19 in F Major, K459, he seems completely taken over by the music. His technique is gigantic, his runs and arpeggios not only clean and even, but subtly nuanced. He has an equal partner in David Zinman, one of my favorite conductors, and the German Chamber Philharmonic, a group of extremely talented young players.
Least known among these three pianists is the Czech artist, Ivan Klánský. I've never heard him live, but remember vividly a telecast years ago of him playing the Beethoven Fourth Concerto, and I recall making a note that I must find out more about him. I treasure a recording he made of Schubert Impromptus on Supraphon. Here he is playing Mozart's most-played concerto, the dramatic No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466. His take is generally more poetic than most, at least in the first two movements. His touch is extremely nuanced, as if each note has been thoughtfully placed by him in its specific context. There is drama aplenty, though, in the two cadenzas that Mr Klánský wrote for the concerto, rather daring considering almost all pianists use the cadenzas Beethoven wrote (or, a distant second, those written by Hummel). Klánský's cadenzas are not only extremely fine, they are surprisingly dramatic, especially so the one for the third movement, which is for left hand alone (and quite a barn-burner, I must say). What a pleasure to encounter these evidences of Klánský's compositional skills. The glorious middle movement is played as if the pianist were in a trance, a dream of bucolic serenity. One is not then prepared for the titanic opening of the third movement (piano alone -- and here Klánský divides the upward surging opening arpeggio between the hands, making for a more ferocious attack) and its ensuing drama. Only with the coda, where piano and orchestra resolve any conflict with a resolution in sunny D major, does any conflict subside. Jiri Behlolavek and the Virtuosi di Praga are with him all the way. Quite a performance.
The venues for the three concerti are, in order, Rococo Hall of the Schwetzingen Castle; Sophiensaal, Munich; and Rittersaal of the Palais Waldstein, Prague.
If you had to pick only one of this series of Mozart concerto DVDs this is the one I'd choose. All three performances are exceptional.
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