Mozart: Piano Sonatas K279, K280, K311 & K576

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Piano Sonatas K279, K280, K311 & K576
PERFORMER: Maria João Pires (piano)
These are well-crafted, sober, distinctly unflashy performances; the question is whether these virtues are the right ones for the music. They certainly pay off in the latest of the sonatas, K576 in D. The opening movement is normally played at a cheerful gallop, but here it’s taken at a very deliberate pace. The effect is to play down the jollity and heighten the sinewy, contrapuntal aspect of the music. Tempi generally are slower than usual, giving Pires time to dwell on subtleties of phrasing and articulation. The trouble is that she has rather too much time, so that these things become over-studious; added to which the piano has an inappropriately massive tone. The result is performances that seem over-serious and lacking in spontaneity. These sonatas are not Mozart’s most profound music; in fact much of the music is brilliantly shallow. What it needs is a performance on its own level; stylish, alert, bursting in joie de vivre. In trying to find depths in the music that aren’t there, Pires too often ends up sounding a bit po-faced. Ivan Hewett