Hai-Kyung Suh takes a classical approach to these Mozart Piano Concertos and Neville Marriner is her ideal partner. The clean-cut playing of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields has great clarity and there is much expressive phrasing, especially from the woodwinds. Hai-Kyung Suh says in the booklet note that K459 appeals to her because of its “innocence and purity” and her pleasing reading closely reflects her feeling for it. There is no over-meaningful shading and the listener is aware of the pianist’s presence – I do not mean that her instrument is particularly forward; indeed the balance with the orchestra is admirable – for it is her confidence that gives an imposing impression.
This positive approach also works well in the dark opening of K466; the solo passages are more dramatic in this Concerto and Hai-Kyung Suh permits herself some subtle inflections which serve to make the music more intense and the use of Beethoven’s cadenzas supports her view, and the Finale is driven. The central ‘Romanze’ is taken broadly and the melodies are articulated faithfully – if there are no whispered pianissimos the orchestra responds to all of the pianist’s nuances.
K467 is also fully scored and the soloist takes a similarly affirmative approach. There are slight differences in the recorded sound here. Hai-Kyung Suh’s reading brought to mind an excellent RCA version, by Alicia de Larrocha and in referring to it I found the tempos remarkably similar. The orchestral timbre differs however, Marriner’s timpani being more part of the texture than in K466, whereas Colin Davis gives the timpani greater presence although he was working with the same recording engineer, Tony Faulkner. Mozart’s Andante (the one now associated with Elvira Madigan) seems usually to have an element of sentimentality. Hai-Kyung Suh avoids giving any such feeling, the muted strings sufficient to convey the emotional atmosphere. The Finale is presented powerfully, a force which sometimes verges on the impatient. It is necessary to provide cadenzas. Hai-Kyung Suh opts for those by Lowell Liebermann (born in 1961). His contribution to the Finale is brief and uses Mozart’s themes without much expansion but the example in the first movement, whilst honouring the tunes, is discursive and some modulations are surprising.
Judging by Hai-Kyung Suh’s calm, unaffected K459 her comparable style to the opening of K488 comes as no surprise (as in K467 the piano’s treble notes are inclined to the left again). I like the deliberation but the Adagio is phrased cautiously and it seems very slow – maybe it is the meaningful lengthening of pauses that causes this feeling; Radu Lupu takes the same duration but avoids being sluggish. Hai-Kyung Suh’s brisk, no-nonsense approach to the Finale, enhanced by characterful playing of Mozart’s elaborate woodwind accompaniments, confirms an overall impression of Mozart-performance that is lucid and focused.