Grimaud mozart 765004

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K466 (1785)
Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550 (1788)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54 (1845)
Valentin Sylvestrov (b. 1937)
The Messenger for synthesizer (or piano) and strings (1996)
Hélène Grimaud (piano)
Camerata Salzburg/Giovanni Guzzo
rec. live, March 2020, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany
Booklet with track listing and notes in English and German
Reviewed in surround sound
C Major 765004 Blu-ray [104]

It is not uncommon for a famous soloist, often a pianist, to get the top billing at an orchestral concert. Here, it is justified more than usual: Camerata Salzburg’s 2020 concert at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie featured four works, three of them concertante pieces with pianist Hélène Grimaud. Concertmaster Giovanni Guzzo directed the orchestra from the front desk. They also played Mozart’s 40th Symphony, more than a makeweight in any context. This is an attractive programme, well-filmed and with very good surround sound, put on a Blu-ray disc.

The programme begins with a very good performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.20. Grimaud sees the piece as stirring as much as disturbing. Yes, there is the orchestra’s tentative disquieting start, and some profounder passages, but mostly the turbulence of the keyboard writing is slightly reined in, even in the swift central episode of the slow movement. There is no hint of the misguided 19th century vision of the work as tragic. There is rubato, often with expressive hesitation near the start of phrase, but kept in classical style. And there is no ‘prettiness’, attention-seeking style perlé in the scalic writing. This sounds like a description of the playing by what it is not, but the end result is satisfying. The orchestra is very alert in its accompaniment, and the wind part, so crucial in Mozart, is beautifully played. Soloist and orchestra are long-standing partners, the booklet tells us, and it shows.

Next, we have Austria’s leading chamber orchestra in a performance of one of Austria’s greatest symphonies: Mozart’s Symphony No.40. It is as impressive as expected, not least since there is no conductor – at any rate, no-one on a podium, with a score, playing no instrument. This may have contributed to a sense of the orchestra conveying a slightly routine “day at the office” feeling in the first two movements, for all the precision of balance, rhythmic unanimity and expressiveness of contour. But I might be influenced by the view of a group with nobody obviously in charge of musical direction; Giovanni Guzzo’s actions from his leader’s chair are undemonstrative. It might just be that these superb players need little directing in such music.

Any slight impression of routine vanished in the last two movements. The Menuetto was emphatic from the start, and had a pesante stamp, like a minuet that wants to be a Ländler. Again, the woodwind detail was delightful. The finale’s frequent alternations of piano and forte were very well articulated, never with too much emphasis. What an orchestra this is.

Schumann’s Piano Concerto in the programmed second half may be the best performance on the disc. Once more there are those Grimaud expressive hesitations, right from her second entry, answering and extending the winds’ playing of the main theme – the work is virtually monothematic. But this mannerism, if one can call it that, is small and subtle, like taking a breath before an important statement. This is especially expressive and natural throughout the Schumann concerto.

I had a growing sense of Hélène Grimaud’s particular empathy with this perhaps most individual and deeply musical of all the Romantic piano concertos. The pathos of the elusive Intermezzo is nicely realised, with an especially sweetly sung cello-led passage for strings. The orchestra collaborates fully in a vision of this noble work. This is not a blatantly virtuoso concerto, but there is as much virtuosity as the work needs in the Finale, and in the compelling first-movement cadenza. Above all, everyone on the platform dynamically presents Schumann’s ever-potent rhythmic invention.

As a substantial encore, we get a work by a composer associated with Grimaud, Valentin Silvestrov. The Messenger, for synthesizer (or piano) and strings, is obviously heard here in the piano version. Whatever the message of The Messenger, it is subtly intimated, never proclaimed. The constant low dynamic makes this an absorbing ten-minute study in deep quietude.

Roy Westbrook

Help us financially by purchasing from

Presto Music
Arkiv Music

Video details
Video Director: Alexander Radulescu.
Picture format: 1080i/16:9.
Sound format: PCM Stereo/DTS-HD MA 5.1.
Mastered from an HD source.
Region code: 0 (worldwide)