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Claudio Abbado’s expected presence on this disc was supposed to be one of its chief selling points; but his absence has made it a bestseller. The conductor had a temper tantrum last summer when Hélène Grimaud refused to use Mozart’s cadenza in the first movement of K488, favouring the one by Busoni instead. The affair attracted unceasing media coverage, creating a groundswell of anticipation so powerful that it put the album – only 24 hours after its release – at the top of the classical bestseller list.

Grimaud’s recording is deserving of its good, if accidental, fortune. This disc suggests she belongs in the great line of Mozart players that began with Edwin Fischer and Artur Schnabel in the 1930s and continued with Solomon and Clara Haskil in the 1950s. This is to say that she plays Mozart in a way that reveals the human flesh and bone beneath the composer’s angelic surfaces, and that her balance of strength and charm, drama and tenderness is combined with fearlessness and an imaginative use of colour.

With the orchestra providing strong support, the pianist gives a tremendous performance of the F major Concerto: brisk in the march rhythms of the first movement, tender in the Figaro-like sweetness of the second, and strong and resilient in the finale. The A major Concerto is no less distinguished. The pianist plays with characteristic finesse and beauty of phrasing, making the slow movement particularly memorable for its poise and its extraordinary depth of feeling. The disc is filled out by Mozart’s great concert aria for orchestra, soprano and piano obbligato, ‘Ch’io mi scordi di te’, sung sensitively by Mojca Erdmann.

STEPHEN WIGLER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing