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Discussion: Mozart: Piano Concertos Vol. 6 - Christian Zacharias

Posts: 8

Post by Windsurfer October 25, 2010 (1 of 8)
In his review PolyNomial said:


... but there is a suspicion that the denser string writing would gain more from period instruments than in the later C major work; the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne do their best (and it is very good) but it seems a little too weighty, as does the modern Steinway cf a fortepiano. For most listeners these are trifling quibbles that will be given no further thought having heard the disc once but for those doubtful...

Some of us (maybe not very many) are truly grateful these are NOT "period" performances!

I love the modern Steinway and I love the sound of the Lausanne strings. If anything they sound to me just a little, and I do mean "just a little" acerbic for my taste. More vibrato would have been welcome here. I hate the whining and exaggerated emphasis "period" playing puts on the initial notes of any phrase.

In my opinion, these performances from Lausanne are truly lovely!

Post by Polly Nomial October 25, 2010 (2 of 8)
Perhaps I was being a little too subtle!

More that I meant to say that the denseness of sound from modern instruments (even when played so neatly and cleanly as here) are inevitably not as clear as period instruments. Also, I have to say that few HIP performers (on modern or period instruments) now - even predominantly - put exaggerated emphases on phrase beginnings.

I would wholeheartedly agree that these are lovely performances - I hope that my reservations are seen as caveats rather than "not with a bargepole" comments!

PN

Post by Arthur October 25, 2010 (3 of 8)
Windsurfer said:

I hate the whining and exaggerated emphasis "period" playing puts on the initial notes of any phrase.

Windsurfer:

I used to feel exactly the same way. But then I discovered Il Giardino Armonico, Fabio Biondi, Rinaldo Alessandrini, et al.

It got me to thinking, and I realized I had been thinking mostly about English and (to a lesser extent) American period performers. I've realized now that I just don't like the English Concert, the Boston Baroque, the Philharmonia Baroque, but my ears have been otherwise opened to period performances.

Still, given the choice, I will choose Mozart on the Steinway over Ronald Brautigam, et al. There's something about the sheen of the piano's tone that is magical in Mozart.

Bret

Post by steviev July 7, 2013 (4 of 8)
'But Zacharias' technique is so "delicate" that it takes all the blood out of Concerto 21 (KV467). I can't say I have ever heard anyone play so lightly on piano keys, which is of course a percussion instrument. The result, whether intended or not, is of a precious and delicate piece of thin crystal. I would be willing to bet that not one keystroke reached the bottom of its range.'

None of this is true. Zacharias plays plenty loud when he chooses, but because MDG's recording philosophy doesn't allow the pianist a spotlight microphone, he does sometimes get buried under the 40-strong orchestra -- which is exactly how a Mozart piano concerto sounds in an unamplified performance. The recordings you prefer almost certainly spotlight the soloist, thus allowing for, ehm, correction during post-production.

Post by wehecht July 7, 2013 (5 of 8)
steviev said:

'But Zacharias' technique is so "delicate" that it takes all the blood out of Concerto 21 (KV467). I can't say I have ever heard anyone play so lightly on piano keys, which is of course a percussion instrument. The result, whether intended or not, is of a precious and delicate piece of thin crystal. I would be willing to bet that not one keystroke reached the bottom of its range.'

None of this is true. Zacharias plays plenty loud when he chooses, but because MDG's recording philosophy doesn't allow the pianist a spotlight microphone, he does sometimes get buried under the 40-strong orchestra -- which is exactly how a Mozart piano concerto sounds in an unamplified performance. The recordings you prefer almost certainly spotlight the soloist, thus allowing for, ehm, correction during post-production.

Leaving aside the issue of post production which takes us into unknown areas viz. the comparative recordings cited in the review I agree with you whole heartedly. Zacharias' MDG recordings are not all equally fine, and certainly some compromises must be involved in rendering 2+2+2 into 5.1 (actually 5.0 on my system), but the recordings on the whole are quite natural sounding, typically rendering the soloist in a more concert like balance with the orchestra than we are accustomed to on disc. And thank goodness that as the review says "the surround effects are very subtle and would appeal to those that prefer a minimalist approach" (does that suggest that the reason for the mediocre sonic rating is that the reviewer prefers a more interventionist approach?).

As to the performance aspects of the review, I suspect that the complaint is more about Zacharias' depth of tone than volume per se. But I frankly don't understand any review which says, in effect, I respect the performer's integrity in performing the piece the way he believes it ought to go ("I will allow a musician's right to his interpretation"), and given his interpretive choices he does it rather well ("Zacharias has excellent skill and musicianship"), but his interpretive choice is so against my own standard that I give this performance 1* and won't even listen to two thirds of the disc ("After KV467, I had to take the disc out. I literally couldn't stand to listen to the other two concertos"). That's not a review of Zacharias' work, it's a statement about the writer's likes and dislikes. And as for the piano as percussion instrument, well, despite the truism, if any composer's piano concertos are more consistently vocal/operatic than Mozart's I certainly haven't heard them. I'm with Polly on this one.

Post by Windsurfer July 8, 2013 (6 of 8)
I'm with Polly on this one.
Yeah, pretty much that stated my feelings as well. But my sympathy was aroused for Mr. Hubbard. I experienced something similar in my distaste for Brautigam's recordings of which I purchased a bunch all at once on the strength of some reviews. The sound created by those musicians simply is not to my taste.

Post by Jonalogic July 8, 2013 (7 of 8)
Windsurfer said:

I experienced something similar in my distaste for Brautigam's recordings of which I purchased a bunch all at once on the strength of some reviews. The sound created by those musicians simply is not to my taste.

... snap! ...

That'll teach you to believe reviews.

Post by Windsurfer July 8, 2013 (8 of 8)
Jonalogic said:

... snap! ...

That'll teach you to believe reviews.

Oh I think "'belief" has less to do with it than the fact that my personal taste excludes that particular means of musical expression, and I was not alert enough to discern this.

Closed