Brendel’s outstanding alertness and intellectual vitality as a Mozart pianist are qualities underlined here. This is repertoire he has previously recorded for Philips; these new versions may be more spacious, at times leisurely, than their predecessors, but the sense of adventure that a Brendel reading of a Mozart (or, indeed, Haydn) sonata has always betokened seems, if anything, increased in them.
One listens with new intentness to shifts of harmony – minor to major and back again in the finale of the A minor, K310, become moments of sharp-etched drama all the more acute for being so subtly, even stealthily staged – alterations of rhythmic underlay and textural configuration. The inclusion of repeats normally passed over in the F major, K533/494, is no laborious or dutiful decision, rather an enlargement of vision wholly justified in the achievement – above all in the Andante, its unfolding at once steady and full of controlled intensity.
Mastery, in sum. The reservations that I so often feel about Brendel’s playing – though less in Mozart and Haydn than in the Romantic repertoire – concern the shortage of magic-in-the-touch and joy-in-the-sound, the clamps on sensual pleasure and the instinctive that his performances convey, and are obviously gut responses, not critical certainties (though comparisons I made with Mitsuko Uchida’s and András Schiff’s sonata recordings, not to mention those of Lili Kraus, a great Mozartian of a previous generation, brought in each case a leap from Brendelian black-and-white into startling pianistic full colour). But, however one finally rates its executant, this remains a remarkable and exhilarating Mozart CD. Max Loppert