Even though Vladimir Ashkenazy is most often celebrated for his brilliantly virtuosic interpretations of Romantic repertoire, his skills in playing works of the Classical era are just as worthy, as proved by this 10-disc set from London of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's piano concertos. These performances span a period from 1966 to 1988, capturing a youthful and vigorous Ashkenazy playing and conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra from the keyboard, in approved Mozartian fashion. All of the keyboard concertos are here, including the official 27 concertos for piano and orchestra, the Concerto for two pianos in E flat major, K. 365, the Concerto for three pianos in F major, K. 242, as well as the two Rondos K. 382 and K. 386. Ashkenazy's elegant playing has been highly praised by critics and placed on a level with his esteemed contemporaries Murray Perahia, Daniel Barenboim, and Alfred Brendel, all past masters of Mozart's primary medium of expression.
Mozart wrote a plethera of fine chamber music in the galante style of the classical era: Quintets for various instruments, string quartets, string trios, string duos, piano trios, violin sonatas and the two magnificent piano quartets here. With these two quartets, Mozart more-or-less invented the genre which was later taken up by Schumann, Brahms and Dvorak. These piano quartets show Mozart in both a dramatic mode in the minor work and a typical merry mood in the major piece.
Matthias Kirschnereit is one of the leading German pianists of his generation. His international solo career has taken him to five continents. He has very close links to the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, with whom he is recording Mozart's collected piano concertos for Arte Nova. Kirschnereit's fascination with Mozart's piano concertos dates back to his youth.
The history of the Russian chamber ensemble of the middle of the 20th century, in all possibility, did not know a more intricate yet remarkable brilliant group of musicians than the celebrated trio of Emil Gilels. Leonid Kogan and Mstislav Rostropovich. All to different in their essence were these three artistic individualities – these three virtuosos, spoilt children of fortune, who were brought together at various stages of disclosure of their outstanding talents. At that, there was not a great difference between their respective ages – Gilels was born in 1916, Kogan was born in 1924 and Rostropovich was born in 1927. Nonetheless, whereas Gilels was already able to reconsider and revise in many ways his principles of work, departing further and further from a pure demonstration of capabilities of his breathtaking technique, Rostropovich and Kogan were still passing through their lengthy period of thrill over their virtuosic powers, affecting their audiences in a straightforward manner.
The quality of the recorded sound is so perfectly clear on this recording, like finely etched crystal, while at the same time it is so robust and resonant, that it is difficult to believe that the piano played on these two marvelous CDs is a replica of a 1785 Walter fortepiano, a smaller and much more fragile instrument than today's modern concert grand pianos.