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To misuse a footballing analogy, this is a disc of two halves. Grimaud’s programme juxtaposes two sets of three works by Mozart and the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. The Messenger is Silvestrov’s starkly heartfelt reaction to the sudden death in 1996 of his musicologist wife, Larissa Bondarenko.

The programme is rather dark, with the Mozart works all in minor keys and Silvestrov’s all of a funereal cast. Grimaud’s Mozart is beautifully phrased and DG’s recording of the concerto balances her very naturally with the excellent Camerata Salzburg. The concerto’s central Romance is lovely, while the concluding Allegro assai is the only truly bright music on the entire disc. The Fantasias are rendered superbly too, Grimaud emphasising their dark and moody character with dramatic pauses and an impeccable sense of theatre.

The connection to Silvestrov’s The Messenger is through its faux-Mozartian invention. The composer has written that he was inspired by a messenger from beyond the grave, perhaps Bondarenko herself, communicating in an 18th-century manner. The Messenger weaves its hypnotic spell through this haunting landscape, articulated with greater clarity in the reprise for solo piano, rather than clouded with orchestral strings and synthesised accompaniment. In between these arrangements comes Two Dialogues with Postscript (based in part on miniatures by Schubert and Wagner), which strikes me as a rather empty work, outstaying its brief duration, despite Grimaud’s advocacy and DG’s fine recording.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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