Francesco Piemontesi at Wigmore Hall – The Mozart Odyssey: Piano Music 3

Piano Sonata in E-flat, K282
Piano Sonata in F, K332
Piano Sonata in G, K283
Piano Sonata in F, K533/494

Francesco Piemontesi (piano)

Reviewed by: Peter Reed

Reviewed: 15 December, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Francesco PiemontesiPhotograph: Benjamin EalovegaA whistling hearing-aid is as much a curse in concert halls as an unruly mobile phone. The former had blighted Francesco Piemontesi’s performance of K282, but he kept going. However, after the first movement of K332, he gave up, and the interval came early. It says a lot for this exceptional Swiss pianist that he was then able to reconvene with the slow movement and complete the rest of his programme without seeming at all fazed.

This was the third of Piemontesi’s survey of Mozart’s piano music, and, while single-composer recitals aren’t necessarily the most natural way to listen to a creator, Piemontesi’s discernment of personality, style and context in these four works was second to none. He is a superb Mozartean – In the same way that some musicians enable Beethoven to speak to you, so Piemontesi knows how to make Mozart sing. It is also easy for musicians to get lost in the detail of his refinement of nuance and phrasing, to the point of fetishising the music. Piemontesi avoids this sort of extreme by keeping true to the vocal quality of Mozart’s music. He has a command of timbre and balance and a disarmingly precise virtuosity that rewards close listening, and the result is a range of deeply satisfying Mozart characterisations in which simplicity by stealth implies immense complexity.

He began both halves of his concert with Sonatas from Mozart’s first set of six, written in the slipstream of the precocious early opera, hence the coloratura-style lines of K282’s opening luxurious Adagio that Piemontesi cast and reeled back in with such consummate awareness of their poised sensibility. He was just as on-song in not drawing attention to the exposed, single-voice passages in K283’s slow movement, and the fast movements of both works flew off the page with sustained brilliance and the sort of wit that ran rings round their rather formulaic structure.

Written seven or eight years later, K332 is significantly more charged, expressed in Piemontesi’s fuller tone and fiery rhythmic momentum, and he unfolded the reams of decoration in the slow movement with barely credible finesse. It also prepared the way for the other F-major work, the ambitious K533/494 (the latter Köchel number belonging to the Finale written earlier). Again, Piemontesi expanded his style to give voice to the first movement’s concerto tendencies and the Andante’s operatic aspirations, marking the romantic contrast to the deceptive innocence of the closing Rondo.

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