WORKS: Piano Sonata in F, K533; Piano Sonata in C, K545; Piano Sonata in B flat, K570; Piano Sonata in D, K576
PERFORMER: Andreas Haefliger (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 0025
Having by happenstance not listened to any of Mozart’s piano sonatas for some time, I sat back in eager anticipation of an hour in the company of old friends. I had forgotten (or perhaps had never recognised) how much the contrapuntal writing in K533 testifies to Mozart’s study of JS Bach, so distant from his usual effortless geniality in thematic combination. As Richard Wigmore observes in his excellent notes, the Sonata has ‘a preoccupation with linear counterpoint’. It is a learned work and it’s played in a learned manner. Despite Haefliger’s complete absorption of Mozartian style, his even, lightly pedalled execution and transparent part-playing, it is pretty dull music-making.
Avie describes Haefliger as a pianist ‘hailing from one of Europe’s musically elite families… steeped in the Austro-German tradition… intellectual interpretations…’. Just so. The outer movements of the Sonate facile (K545) skip by without a smile and with an arduously plodding slow movement (6:22 mins) reminiscent of Walter Gieseking at his least inspired (perhaps I’ve lived too long with Julius Katchen’s old Decca LP). K570 has its moments (the finale is positively chirpy), while K576, though played with the same unvaried tone and dynamics used throughout, at least attempts to sparkle. Set aside the dancing delights of Mitsuko Uchida, though, Haefliger sounds earthbound, as dutiful and deliberate as he is pedagogic and pedestrian.
Varied in character though these sonatas may be, this disc encourages the thought that Mozart’s sonatas were not written to be heard one after the other. Jeremy Nicholas