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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Seong-Jin Cho's Mozart Checks Off All The Boxes

By Norman Lebrecht on December 28, 2018


Mozart: Piano Concerto 23 (DG)

★★★★★ (out of five)

To end the year, up pops a Mozart with five stars written all over it.

As a matter of course, I do not listen to new Mozart piano releases. There is such an abundance of unsurpassed recordings on my shelves — Ashkenazy, Brendel, Gilels, Haskil, Kempff, Richter — who could ask for anything more? But I slipped on this latest offering as an early-morning tune-up and, before I knew it, I was I heaven.

I am sure the good folk at DG had a go at Seong-Jin Cho not to risk Mozart at this stage, but the Chopin competition winner clearly knows his own mind and, by the evidence of this disc, it is a supple and original mind. His entry in the K466 concerto has a touch that calls to mind something of the young Schiff or Kocsis, at once questing and certain, firm yet malleable. He can hold a musical conversation, this young man, constantly challenging the listener to rethink. Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe do their best to stay in the frame.

The solo sonatas, K281 and K332, are even more impressive. Seong-Jin Cho dodges Mozart’s bullets of cutesiness, giving an almost austere reading of these salon pieces, a Sunday-morning sermon for serious adults who listen more for uplift than pleasure. We’ll hear a lot more of this Korean comet in the years to come.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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