Mozart: Piano Sonatas Nos 11, 17 & 18

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LABELS: La Dolce Volta
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Nos 11, 17 & 18
PERFORMER: Menahem Pressler (piano)


Now in his nineties, Menahem Pressler (the former pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio) is enjoying a coda to his long career that is beginning to shape up like that of the Polish pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski, who, in his tenth decade, achieved new-found mellowness and wisdom. Two of the Mozart sonatas on Pressler’s new recording were also staples of Horszowski’s repertoire in his Indian summer, and the poetic simplicity of the B flat Sonata No. 17, in particular, seemed tailor-made for him, as it does, indeed, for Pressler. In Pressler’s hands, the slow movement has a limpid quality that makes it infinitely affecting. Scarcely less beautiful in its atmosphere of warmth is the minuet from the famous Turkish Rondo Sonata No. 11; and in the ‘crossed-hands’ variation of the same sonata’s opening movement, Pressler’s use of the sustaining pedal invokes a music-box. The minor-mode variation is generously pedalled, too – but there Pressler, who has small hands, uses it largely to maintain the legato of the right-hand octaves which carry the melodic line.

For all the beauty of the playing, there are times, perhaps, when Pressler can seem over-poetic: in the Adagio of the great D major Sonata K576 he is lingering in the extreme; and no doubt in earlier years its brilliant opening movement would have been more extrovert. But this lavishly produced recording, the first in a promised series of the complete Mozart piano sonatas, is one to be treasured.


Misha Donat