COMPOSERS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Nos 7, 11, 15 & 18
PERFORMER: Christian Blackshaw (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0078/2
The final instalment in Christian Blackshaw’s Mozart sonata cycle is as musically illuminating as earlier discs in this series. Again, he gets inside the very distinctive qualities of each work, highlighting differences of emphasis that are not always apparent in other performances. A good example is the subtle way he interprets Mozart’s use of counterpoint which became such a central feature of his later style; in the opening movement of the D major Sonata, K576, the tightly woven interplay between the two hands is presented with an almost Bachian severity, whereas the contrapuntal dialogue in the opening Allegro of the F major K533 is projected in a much more operatic manner.
Some of the most spellbinding playing is in that Sonata’s slow movement. Mozart suggests it should be played as an Andante, whereas Blackshaw presents it more as an epic Adagio. Yet any concern that his deliberate tempo might disrupt the natural flow of the musical argument is completely dispelled, such is the poetry and intimacy of his playing. This spaciousness actually enables the pianist to encompass unexpected emotional dimensions in the music. I am thinking here in particular of the sudden appearance of darker textures and tonally unstable harmonies immediately after the double bar, a passage which in Blackshaw’s interpretation casts a disturbing shadow over the rest of the movement.
As before, Blackshaw scrupulously observes most of Mozart’s designated repeats. Although this makes the opening variation movement in the A major K331 seem surprisingly extended, there’s sufficient variety in Blackshaw’s touch and timbre to keep one fully engaged.