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For his survey of the six concertos, Finnish virtuoso Olli Mustonen chose a modern grand piano – though Ondine’s documentation does not specify the maker – and the brilliant modern acoustic of Finland’s Tapiola Hall. This triple-disc set combines three earlier Ondine releases (ODE 1099-2, 1123-2 and 1146-2), recorded between 2006 and 2009.

Hearing these accounts again after a decade, I am still struck by the individuality – and waywardness – of Mustonen’s interpretations and the acuity of the Tapiola Sinfonietta’s accompaniments. As a representation of the performers’ intentions, this well-recorded set remains a faithful, sonically superb issue. However, it is also a curiously mixed bag, the brilliant account of the Third Concerto being the highlight, the transcription of the Violin Concerto the least convincing (though Beethoven may have to shoulder some of the responsibility for that). The other performances all have flashes of intelligent and involving playing, offset by passages that just do not come off– No 4 a case in point.

It is not a matter of quality of performance, but rather of interpretation. Mustonen’s imagination is at the root of the problem, particularly his finicky approach to details such as accents and phrasing. An intelligent composer himself, there are points – try the very opening of the First Concerto, or the over-elaborate treatment of the finale’s main theme – where Mustonen seems almost to be reworking, rather than rendering, the music. Admirers of this fine, mercurial artist need not hesitate to acquire this set but those coming new to it may be maddened by Mustonen’s sometimes over-literal, maverick approach.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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