MOZART Piano Concertos / Argerich, Abbado 4791033

This album is inspirational for more than just the superb quality of the music-making. It's a testament to the friendship between two great artists . . . It's also poignant, of course, because this was to be the last time they played together . . . [the Orchestra Mozart] play so well for him on this [album] . . . with Argerich's help he bids farewell with performances of the highest quality.

Partnering Martha Argerich once again, together they give exhilarating, productive and sophisticated accounts of two of Mozart's greatest piano concertos . . . [Mozart 25]: Abbado leads off with a regal and journeying introduction. Argerich's reply is impulsive but also very responsive to Orchestra Mozart (a mix of talented youngsters and world-renowned musicians), delighting in the brilliance of the writing and also relishing the sublime melodies . . . The slow movement is lovingly shaped and the finale's friskiness and profundities are respectively scintillating and eloquent. To the very different "Sturm und Drang" world of the D minor Piano Concerto, Argerich, Abbado and the eponymous Orchestra bring a surreptitious scurrying to the opening movement, fortissimo outbursts all the more powerful for the restraint elsewhere, so too Argerich's opening out the dynamics in the development section. She plays Beethoven's cadenzas in the outer movements, and does so with a cutting-loose zing. For all the music's dark passion there is also much heartfelt expression on offer. Such contrasts also abound in the 'Romanza' slow movement, gently songful for the most part yet with a central storm, which Argerich and the woodwinds whip up. The finale is electrifying, faster than most, prestidigitation and attack to the fore yet without losing focus on the music . . . these are imposing, beguiling and charismatic accounts, with a few subterranean noises off and applause retained, that have been vividly recorded and can be highly recommended.

. . . overwhelmingly beautiful. Argerich digs deeply into the keys, but never makes an ugly sound. Her subtle shaping with Abbado of the central movement in the D minor concerto is slow but serene, and the way she lifts the final simple phrases of the coda is heartbreaking.

An outstanding partnership between Claudio Abbado and Martha Argerich with the Orchestra Mozart creates a performance which is elegant, electric and compelling . . . Mozart was in Abbado's very DNA, a fact that is highlighted here in the elegance, élan and well-harnessed energy in his moulding of the orchestral parts of these two keyboard concertos. The artistic partnership with Argerich is an intimate, seasoned and spirited one: the way in which her delicate fingerwork in the slow movement of the C Major Concerto is so perfectly coordinated with the woodwind instruments is just one example of how the orchestra, soloist and conductor are in complete, responsive harmony. But on the broader front, too, this is a performance where everything works instinctively. Argerich, as always, is a characterful, spontaneous soloist but, as is equally typical of her winning manner of playing, she is thoroughly attuned to the music's scale and stylistic niceties. With Abbado as a constant source of sensitivity as regards balance and instrumental colour, this is an interpretation that is in every sense live and, with excellent engineering of sound, has a compelling immediacy of presence. The atmosphere of tension and apprehension that Abbado triggers at the start of the D Minor Concerto fuels a viscerally exciting, aptly disquieting performance of the first movement, its emotions in flux, Argerich complementing Abbado in tempering darkness with light. She launches the finale as a true "Allegro assai", but it is fit, healthy and lithe rather than in any way breathless. These are performances in which vital sparks generate palpable electricity.

. . . [Piano Concerto no. 25 K. 503]: Argerich's entry in the finale suddenly emerges like an Indian summer, dazzling and lively, darting in and out of the orchestral texture . . . [Piano Concerto no. 20 K. 466]: this performance is at its best when the music is at its most intense, the climaxes of the first movement and the finale building up a good head of steam, but always with a sense of reflection rather than "sturm und drang" . . . [Argerich and Claudio Abbado bring to their Mozart performances] the cares of life, creating music of consolation and philosophy, deliberation and calm, laudable, if today rather unglamorous, attributes, which Mozart's genius can accommodate.

. . . Abbado offers conducting that is precious, fussy, and overly timid in both works, especially their first movements . . . the finales of both works, or the minor-key eruption in the Romance of Concerto No. 20, reveal both her sensitivity and virtuosity to fine effect . . .

. . . Argerich can play like the wind . . . [the recording] flirts with perfection and delivers satisfaction at its deepest . . . In both concertos, this is late-life Mozart from musicians . . . who have lived with it across their entire careers, and the wisdom gleaned from those decades informs every note and gesture -- and still is worn lightly. From Abbado there's the wisdom of accumulated, deeply considered historically informed performance, which came into ist own before his very eyes and ears. From Argerich, there's the attention to every crystalline note and the lunge into its fullest, deepest possibilities that the best of modern pianos can underwrite. From both is unwavering devotion to Mozart. Argerich properly lets loose in the cadenzas . . . and spontaneity and at times even impulsivity illuminate her playing . . . Abbado, otherworldly in the D minor, encapsulates a life in music theater in the broadly smiling C Major.

Man muss keine Schwanengesang-Melancholie in diese kostbare Scheibe hineingeheimnissen, um entzückt wie ergriffen zu hören, wie hier . . . zwei Könner völlig entspannt in die Mysterien und Verführungen dieser Musik hineinhören. Wie sie sich neugierig mitreißen lassen und dabei stets souverän die Kontrolle behalten. Wie sie sich gegenseitig Aufmerksamkeit und Respekt schenken, wie sie aufeinander reagieren und den anderen gewähren lassen. Wach, liebevoll, mit Spaß am eigenen Können und den so entfesselten, kristallinen Klängen. Ja, so klingt Mozart-Transzendenz.

. . . [das] Dokument einer langen, wunderbaren Künstlerfreundschaft . . . Das Gespann Abbado-Argerich ergänzt sich traumwandlerisch darin, einander der Musik auszusetzen, ohne den nur allzu gut vorgekerbten Wegen dann auch folgen zu müssen. Das entfacht bei Mozart besonders nachhaltige Wirkung, gerade weil Offensichtliches einfach unterspielt wird: die Pracht des C-Dur ebenso wie der den Don Giovanni vorwegnehmende Todessturz in d-moll. Mozart wird zum Medium des Übergangs, eines gemeinsam über Grenzen hinaus Spürens, ein Seismograph. Es erscheint nur folgerichtig, dass Claudio Abbado seinen stillen Wagemut nur noch mit Freunden auf dem Podium teilen mochte. Ihm und der furchtlosen Martha Argerich dabei folgen zu dürfen, durch Mozart-Fragen, Mozart-Volten, Mozart-Erstaunen, lädt diese Aufnahme vielfach ein. Eine Grabplatte ist das nicht. So etwas nennt man wohl: ein Geschenk.

Mit dem von ihm gegründeten Mozart Orchestra hat Abbado einen sehr transparenten, von der historischen Aufführungspraxis inspirierten, wunderbar abgeklärten Mozart-Stil entwickelt . . . [Piano Concerto no. 25 K. 503]: [Argerichs] Temperament kommt schnell zum Tragen, doch wie beherrscht und delikat spielt sie diesen Mozart! Im d-Moll Konzert Nr. 20 exponiert Argerich das berühmte Romanzenthema nicht überdeklamierend wie die meisten Pianisten (danke!), sondern natürlich fließend, dabei samtweich und klar zugleich -- und das Orchester bildet, wie von Zauberhand geführt, Rahmen und Gegenpart. Für diese Aufnahme kann man einfach nur dankbar sein.