WORKS: Piano Sonata in F, K332; Piano Sonata in B flat, K333; Piano Sonata in C minor, K457; Adagio in B minor, K540
PERFORMER: Alfred Brendel (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 468 048-2
Among the considerable pleasures of the previous disc in Brendel’s Mozart sonatas series were the spontaneous decorations he applied in the slow movements. There was no need for him to do so in this latest instalment, as Mozart himself provided intricately ornamented reprises for all three of these works when they appeared in print. The C minor Sonata, K457, was issued in tandem with a Fantasia in the same key, K475, and the richly varied passages in the Adagio’s recapitulation were probably Mozart’s attempt to match the Fantasia’s improvisatory style. Brendel is, however, by no means alone in feeling that the two intensely dramatic works make ill-suited bedfellows, and he does not include the Fantasia here. His performance of the Sonata is by turns thrillingly dramatic and warmly lyrical, and it would be
hard to imagine a more satisfying account of this great work.
The less overtly impassioned Sonatas K332 & K333 have often been underrated. Brendel treats them with all the seriousness they deserve, lending the music an admirable sense of spaciousness, and finding an element of genuine tragedy in the development section of K333’s slow movement. As a bonus, his disc also includes the most poignant of all Mozart’s shorter piano pieces, the B minor Adagio, K540. As an alternative to Brendel in the sonatas, Maria João Pires’s beautifully warm and natural-sounding performances, although in no way ‘better’, provide a useful benchmark. Her recording is marred only by DG’s tiresomely pedantic insistence on including every single second-half repeat. Misha Donat