Sony Masters’ 2012 repackaging of the Murray Perahia Mozart Piano Concerto cycle recorded during the 1970s and ’80s appears sonically identical to the label’s 24-bit remastered 2006 boxed set, which conveys slightly more presence in the bass and midrange in comparison with earlier individual discs in the series. While the present 12-CD edition lacks annotations (recording dates, venues, and cadenza attributions appear on each individual disc’s cardboard sleeve back), Sony’s drastically reduced price clinches the deal, so to speak. And frankly, no better modern-instrument Mozart piano concerto cycle bargain exists on CD, even if one might prefer the occasionally sharper inner-part details Rudolf Buchbinder elicits from the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, or the more pungent orchestral colors, characterful first-desk solos, and and quirkier accentuation distinguishing the András Schiff/Sandor Vegh Decca cycle.
Perahia’s immaculate technique, stylistic surety, and classical symmetry are remarkably consistent. While his tone is always singing and rounded, lyrical melodies and decorative passages alike convey a slight diamond-like edge to the peak of crescendos or an emphatic accent. This helps achieve an attractive fusion of unruffled poise and dramatic tension. You hear this quite readily in the B-flat K. 456 concerto ‘s first movement, or in the carefully pedaled trills and restatement of the main theme in K. 595’s heavenly Larghetto, also sampled here. Perahia’s symbiotic musical rapport with Radu Lupu in the two-piano concerto and the two-piano version of the concerto for three pianos should not go unmentioned. In short, the combination of some of Mozart’s most inspired creations, Perahia’s caring artistry, and Sony’s less than two-dollars-per-disc total cost makes this release all the more desirable.