Even with the best will in the world, it is impossible to review every recording issued – it’s nice to have a choice though, that Christmas Day excitement of opening packages to see what is inside – and sometimes even those titles that inspire enthusiastic words are kept in the wings beyond the release date. This is one such: available since April 20, so just a few months lost, and – unless you are ahead of me – well-worth waiting for.
Yeol Eum Son was a “double Second Prize winner at the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in 2011”. She certainly impresses throughout these Mozart choices, works in C, major or minor. The K264 Variations make a good start (second on the disc), a charming Theme followed by numerous imaginative commentaries (fifteen minutes’ worth), played with style and affection by Son, head and heart in tandem, sparkling and lyrically inviting, and she also has a discriminating ear for tone and dynamics. Such unaffected but revealing musicianship is just as rewarding in the remaining solo works, the K330 Sonata perfectly poised in tempo and phrase, expressive throughout, especially in the Andante, which is turned to a nicety. Greater drama is apparent in the minor-key Fantasy (sometimes coupled with the same-key Sonata K457, by Uchida, for example), unfolded with gravity, consolation and emotional contrasts.
The Concerto benefits from Neville Marriner’s considered conducting in what, poignantly, turned out to be his final recording. The first movement strides forward with purpose and gleaming detail, Son entering as a ‘first among equals’, fully personable and also making chamber music with the Academy’s responsive players and Sir Neville’s vital and scrupulous leadership. I assume the first-movement cadenza is Son’s own (Onyx’s annotation fails to mention); whoever the author is they have provided an inventive and appropriate piece of work; of course it may turn out to be by Mozart! The ‘Elvira Madigan’ slow movement is ideally spacious, serenely lovely if touched by regret, given here from the soul, with pinpricks of conscience, and the Finale (which brings another cadenza conundrum) is joyous, previous sadness now turned to smiles and optimism.
The icing on the cake is Tony Faulkner’s sound, excellent balance, clarity and immediacy, the musicians and the venue faithfully captured.