SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

MOZART: Piano Concertos Vol. 8 = Concertos Nos. 24 and 25 – Christian Zacharias, piano & cond. Lausanne Ch. Orch. – MDG

Recorded 12 years apart, Zacharias's performances of these two seminal Mozart works reveal a change in the pianist/conductor's perspective and tone.

Published on March 16, 2012

MOZART: Piano Concertos Vol. 8 = Concerto No. 24 KV 491; Concerto No. 25 KV 503 – Christian Zacharias, piano & cond. Lausanne Chamber Orch. – MDG multichannel SACD (2+2+2) 940 1737-6, 61:22 [Distr. by E1] *****: 

Recorded 12 years apart, Zacharias’s performances of these two seminal Mozart piano concertos reveal a change in the pianist/conductor’s perspective and tone. Whereas No. 25 is hard-edged, brilliant, rich and powerful, No. 24 is pliable, soft-grained, sumptuous and ridiculously (thanks to the audiophile recording) gorgeous. Each is distinguished by the kind of energy which comes from a good narrative pulse, and is further illuminated by a sophisticated and often refreshingly blithe use of ornamentation. The fact that Zacharias has contributed a through-composed cadenza for the first movement of No. 24, which incorporates the orchestra itself for most if its length, further heightens the intense effect of pure beauty.

Partially, of course, the difference is also due to the intrinsic differences between the two concertos themselves. But Zacharias seems to have relaxed a bit over the intervening years, and perhaps plumped up his sensibilities a bit. Neither performance quite takes top honors in their field, but together they make a very attractive and potent coupling, especially if you’ve just installed a pair of new speakers; and both in the multichannel format take on added bloom.

The recording of No. 25 was one of the first that MD&G and Zacharias produced in the Métropole concert hall in Lausanne, where the Chamber Orchestra plays, prior to its restoration (initially it was released as a DVD-Audio). The SACD hybrid now appears for the time (newly mixed); the sound is quite excellent, although the quality of No. 24 seems to be at another, even higher level of purity.

—Laurence Vittes




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