Mozart: Piano Sonatas & Variations (complete)

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WORKS: Piano Sonatas & Variations (complete)
PERFORMER: Daniel Barenboim (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CZS 5 73915 2 Reissue (1985, 1991)
Anyone setting out to record Mozart’s complete works for solo piano is taking on one of the greatest and least obvious challenges in pianistic life. The first to complete the task was the legendary Walter Gieseking, the most recent was the late and barely known Austrian Gilbert Schuchter, whose version is uneven but generally far superior to Gieseking’s, though less consistently satisfying than Walter Klien’s long-deleted version on Vox/Turnabout. While not perhaps revealing a great pianist, this collection is nevertheless full of immensely attractive and stylish playing, often best in music bound to be unfamiliar or unknown to most music lovers. The programme on each CD is of mixed genres, ordered on musical rather than chronological grounds and adding up in every case to a pleasingly varied and interesting recital. Hackneyed as the phrase may sound, this really is a release which no Mozartian pianophile should be without. The same cannot be said, not by me anyway, of Barenboim in the sonatas and variations. First-rate Mozartian though he often is, too much of his playing here is marred by excessive volume, stridency of sound, and a rhythmic angularity and drive far removed from Mozart’s own injunction that ‘it should flow like oil’. Jeremy Siepmann