Mozart
Piano Sonatas:
No.1 in C, K279
No.2 in F, K280
No.8 in A minor, K310
No.9 in D, K311
No.17 in B flat, K570
Christian Blackshaw (piano)

Recorded on 6 January 2012 in Wigmore Hall, London
CD No: WIGMORE HALL LIVE
WHLive0061/2 (2 CDs)
Duration: 1 hour 33 minutes
Reviewed: August 2013
It’s a real pleasure to welcome this first volume of Christian Blackshaw’s complete survey of Mozart’s piano sonatas given in and preserved by Wigmore Hall.
One only has to sample the opening bars of the B flat Sonata (K570) to appreciate the intimacy and gentle touch that Blackshaw brings to this music; and also, gratifyingly, how clearly and immediately he has been recorded. The first movement of this work is an object lesson of how an ideal moderate tempo helps create perfect phrasing – perfect because Blackshaw gives himself time to shape every note and let it ring in our ears, his modern grand piano made to seem the just-right vehicle for this music. The slow movement, properly Adagio, is heavenly – simple yet profound – and the finale enjoys a merry scamper, Blackshaw always poised in revealing counterpoint. Following K570 (on disc 2) is the A minor Sonata (K310). Perhaps Blackshaw underplays tension and dramatic contrasts in the Allegro maestoso, but his playing is musical to a fault. Once again the slow movement is generously unfolded, and typically longer than the first one; an imbalance that could have been avoided had the pianist observed second-half repeats in the respective openers (where it is possible to do so). To complete K310, the finale is suitably shadowy, Blackshaw finding an extra degree of emotional temperament and also much expression in short notes.
Disc 1 opens with Mozart’s first two piano sonatas, slighter works than some of those that followed, but there’s no lack of charm, friskiness and incident, as the brilliance of the C major’s first movement demonstrates. The F major piece that comes next shows no less technical prodigy on the composer’s part, and Blackshaw is suitably dexterous in the glittering opening Allegro assai and then acutely searching in the Adagio. With the D major Sonata, K311, the musical invention is raised. Blackshaw certainly captures the ‘spirito’ quality of the opening movement with some crisp articulation and then mines the Andante con espressione for much pathos. The lolloping gait of the finale, here the longest movement (even with too much applause included in the timing!), is unfailingly attractive in its various episodes.
Closely observed attention to dynamics and other markings is another hallmark of Blackshaw’s study and realisation of these works, and his touches and colours are beguiling. Recorded live, if with some well-made post-recital patching (and the annotation assigns 8 and 9 to the wrong sonatas), this is an impressive beginning to what could become a major event, a set of recordings of this repertoire to rank with Alfred Brendel and Mitsuko Uchida. This 2-for-1 release is available from 2 September.

 

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