Pianist Paul Badura-Skoda's 90th birthday marked with a handsome 20-disc box-set



Deutsche Grammophon 479 8065 (20 CDs)

5 stars

This handsome 20-disc box-set celebrates the 90th birthday of Austrian pianist Paul Badura-Skoda (born Oct 6, 1927), who is best known for his interpretations of the Viennese classics - the music of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.

These are gloriously represented by his recordings on the now-defunct British Westminster label from 1951 to 1965. All the five Beethoven piano concertos are accompanied by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra conducted by Hermann Scherchen. These and six Mozart piano concertos (Nos. 19, 20, 22, 23, 24 and 27), also partnered by Viennese orchestras, sound fresh and energetic, and occasionally include his own idiomatic cadenzas.

As a sensitive musician, he partnered fellow Viennese Jorg Demus in four-hands piano music by Mozart and Schubert, and violinist Jean Fournier and cellist Antonio Janigro in selected piano trios by Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. With members of the Barylli Quartet, an ebullient reading of Schubert's Trout Quintet was the result.

Less well-known are his performances of 20th century and Romantic repertoire, the latter including some unexpected choices - piano concertos by Chopin, Franck, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Scriabin.

The young Badura-Skoda displayed a fire and passion one might not have been aware of. Just as satisfying are the discs of solo piano music (Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms and some anachronistic Bach), capped by an hour of encores which has him attempting Liszt and Ravel. The majority of the recordings are in monaural sound, but revelatory listening beckons.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe