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.