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The German-born Israeli-American pianist Menahem Pressler (born 1923) played for 53 years with the Beaux Arts Trio and has taught at Indiana University since 1955. He approaches notes subtly, like a string player, or as the French cellist Paul Tortelier told him: ‘You are a pianist who plays with a bow arm.’ As concerto soloist, Pressler listens as attentively and co-operatively to orchestral musicians as any conductor, rather than with the adversarial stance of other pianists. Paavo Järvi leads a blunt, generic and overemphatic orchestra (the Orchestre de Lille and Ensemble Orchestral are France’s chief Mozartian groups), redeemed by Pressler’s tenderly intimate playing and admirably limber wit.

The Adagio of the A major Concerto is played lento, although with satisfying legato. The third movement Allegro assai, taken at only a moderate clip, is at the limit of Pressler’s technique at this point. K595 is delightful for the looks of radiantly merry recognition Pressler occasionally gives to the orchestra. Pressler inspires, rather than conducts, from the keyboard.

In the K595 finale, the pianist runs out of steam somewhat. Solo works, palette cleansers of sorts, include the Mozart Rondo in A minor in a lucid, understated reading with a grasp of style that we might expect from a sublime master such as Ivan Moravec. Debussy’s Clair de lune is a bit too Mozartian here, regressing to an over-delicate school of Debussyists heard circa 1940.

In a 13-minute chat, Järvi mostly sits and listens to Pressler’s voice of experience.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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