Mozart Piano Sonatas
This is Noriko Ogawa’s first recording of works by Mozart and on the whole it’s a pretty impressive achievement. I must admit my eyebrows were somewhat raised by the fact that she had chosen to play these three Sonatas on a Steinway D grand piano with its potentially huge resonance and wide dynamic range. But fears that such an instrument would be too unwieldy for music that is often delicate in character and texture are quickly dispelled. Throughout this warmly engineered release, Ogawa sustains a wonderful lightness of touch utilising the pedal very sparingly and ensuring that all textures are crystal-clear.
Among the many things that are admirable about her performances, I noted in particular the subtle gradation of dynamics in the way she shapes the opening melody in the Allegro moderato of K330, the beauty of her cantabile right hand in the ensuing slow movement, the exhilarating flourishes in the final variation of the first movement of K331 and the little touches of infectious humour that percolate through the brilliantly articulated finale of K332. The only minor disappointment is the rather staid rendition of the ‘Rondo alla Turca’ finale to K331.
In faithfully observing every repeat, Ogawa makes these sonatas seem much more large-scale in design than is often the case. It’s a pity therefore that she steadfastly resists the opportunity for varying the ornamentation when the material is heard for a second time, as would probably have been the case in Mozart’s day. But despite this rather literal approach, these performances are extremely enjoyable.