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Reviews: Mozart: Piano Concertos (complete)

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Reviews: 3

Review by zany July 2, 2005 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The idea of issuing the complete Mozart piano concertos on SACD is very laudible, however it is a project worthy of the very best. Unfortunately this set does not fill the bill. Firstly, the original recordings are PCM and it shows (I have only listened to the stereo layer). Yes, this is an inexpensive set but that does not excuse poor recordings. For example K488 sounds as though the piano and orchestra were in the next room to the microphones. The volume varies greatly between the discs, in some cases being barely acceptable. Finally, much of Mr Han's playing is hurried and insensitive, all the more regretable as the orchestra are up to the standard we would expect from the Philharmonia. Approach with caution!

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Review by Daland July 3, 2005 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This set is a real disappointment. The multi-channel sound ranges from acceptable to execrable, without any clear pattern emerging (some early concertos sound better than others and the same goes for the mature concertos). Many recordings are a real travesty of SACD technology and may only be described as "bathroom acoustics". Incidentally, the double concerto, triple concertos and rondos on the last disc offer the best sonics. They feature Hungarian pianists and a Hungarian orchestra and conductor (German in the case of the rondos). When you have listened to K. 488 before, the difference is very striking indeed. Interpretatively, too, these are better than the rest. Derek Han gives lacklustre performances without much variation, and the accompaniment is not very distinguished either. I will keep the set for some of the early concertos and the double and triple concertos, but there are better versions available at least for some of the more popular concertos (Perahia, Brendel, Haskil, Gulda).

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Review by brenda July 16, 2005 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I am penning this to offer an alternate reponse to this set than those of zany and daland, who I think have been far too harsh in their scores.

I agree with them about some things. The sound does vary, with some concertso having a brighter top end than others and some being more reverberant and (slightly) congested than others. The playing is also less than stellar, bearing no comparison to the subtleties revealed by Perahia or Schiff. Han is sometimes slihtly too fast and more often too prosaic. Some concertos also had inadequate rehearsal time compared to others.

However, this is a set of 11 discs, and very few such endeavours can ever address each work equally well. Han is generally a reliable guide who scores a few successes, not least of which is the 27th. He is consistently better than some soloists who I would class as poor (incl. on SACD). The Philharmonia sometimes sound too beefy and their sound is sometimes opaque, but never execrable as another reviewer claimed.

These are nearly all works of sublime genius, and i think we can over-react to a shortfall in recreative genius, especially as we've all heard the very finest pianists of their generations in these works. But Han is a reliable guide to the Concertos in many respects, and at this bargain price, to expect much more than that would e unrealistic.

The same applies to the sound - Brilliant have never hidden that these are (for the most part) spatialised PCM recordings made over nearly a decade (discs 2-10 incl). To expect DSD quality or even 24/96 quality is harsh, - the recordings are comparable to a good redbook, but with a decent sense of space (if less than we addicts are used to).

I appreciate that all discs should be judged on their merits, but to expect Schiff or Perahia or pure DSD from a set costing about £24 (or a little over £2 a disc is unrealistici). If this set introduces SACD lovers who otherwise aren't familiar with Mozart's concertos and wouldn't shell out £15 a disc for Brendel (who is worth it) then that's surely a good thing.

In sum then, these aren't up their with the best but neither are they execrable. They are always serviceable both in sound and playing, and sometimes a lot better than that. I'm not going to be silly and over-score just because they've been underscored by others, but I think three stars is fair.

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