This disc, recorded in 1998, is a nice surprise. "Surprise", because Nikolai Lugansky does not appear often in the recording studio, and when he does, it's more likely to be in big, Romantic repertoire rather than Classical.
Two things make this disc special. Well three, I suppose, if you count Lugansky's assured and reliably accomplished playing. But the first real treat to notice here is the crisply articulate and energetic orchestral accompaniment provided by the excellent Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Lev Markiz. And then there is Challenge Classics's superb recorded sound, making it all sound absolutely splendid. Richly colorful and characterful orchestral solos are a constant delight sprinkled throughout both these works, notably from the woodwinds. And the supremely realistic body of tone from Lugansky's piano is simply miraculous. The piano often proves to be remarkably difficult to record, especially by the major labels. But, fortunately, many specialty labels take the time and care to do it right. And Challenge Classics is among that select group. This is one of the most realistic piano sounds I can recall hearing on CD. The booklet amusingly lists the piano tuner but not the piano manufacturer! It possesses a rich, rather dark and rounded tone throughout the entire range - slightly fuller-bodied, less bright, than a Steinway. I suspect it may be a Bosendorfer. Nonetheless, it never sounds too big for Mozart, especially with Lugansky's delicate command - a light touch and musical, singing lines always in evidence.
I typically tend to concentrate my reviews to new(er) releases. But every so often I encounter (or in this case re-discover) a disc so special, I simply must share it. This 2001 release offers two of the most smiling and outright enjoyable Mozart concerto recordings I've encountered in some time. And with sound so good it makes me forget all about SACDs and DSD technology. Good old fashioned CDs are alive and well - when done properly. It is a great pity Challenge did not go on to record more Mozart concertos with this team. A sensational complete set it could have become. If only.