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Mozart & Contemporaries (Víkingur Ólafsson)

Víkingur Ólafsson (piano) (DG)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
486 0525_Mozart

Mozart & Contemporaries
Haydn: Piano Sonata No. 47 in B minor, Hob.XVI:32; Mozart: Piano Sonatas Nos 14 & 16; Adagio in B minor, K540; Fantasia in D minor, K397, etc. Plus works by CPE Bach, Cimarosa and Gallupi
Víkingur Ólafsson (piano)
DG 486 0525   81:19 mins

Víkingur Ólafsson is constantly trying out new recording recipes. This new one sounds intriguing: a selection of Mozart’s keyboard works from the 1780s, interspersed with works by some of his contemporaries – CPE Bach and Haydn, Galuppi and Cimarosa. There are also two arrangements by the pianist himself, plus one – of Mozart’s Ave verum corpus – by Liszt.

While CPE Bach and Haydn were closely connected with Mozart both musically and in spirit, Galuppi and Cimarosa belong, as Ólafsson puts it, to the same eco-system of 18th-century music. The latter two composers are seldom recorded, so their inclusion here is welcome, if vestigial; the one piece of any note by Galuppi is a bewitchingly beautiful Larghetto, while the Cimarosa scores had to be harmonised by Ólafsson.

Every work on this album is short, and, apart from sonatas by Haydn and Mozart, all are standalone pieces – except the Adagiofrom Mozart’s String Quintet in G minor: Ólafsson’s arrangement is excellent, but wrenching that movement out of the context of that tragic masterpiece feels like a desecration.

Moreover, the ‘pick ‘n mix’ principle on which the recording is organised – including the perverse excision of the final chord of Mozart’s Fantasia in D minor – can set teeth on edge. Yet there is much to admire here thanks to Ólafsson’s superb pianism, most notably in Haydn’s Sonata No. 47, Mozart’s little C major Sonata and his Adagio in B minor; his Kleine Gigue goes like the wind.

Michael Church