Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2: Sonatas K279, 282, 284 & 311
Jean Muller (piano)
Hänssler Classic HC 19074 68:28 mins
These are all early sonatas, composed by Mozart between the ages of 18 and 21 to show off his pianism to the cognoscenti of Mannheim and Munich. They are certainly full of pretty rococo trills and twiddles, yet already remarkably varied in expression and formal scope: from the surprisingly discursive rondo of Sonata No. 8, K311, complete with miniature cadenza, to the grandeur of No. 6, K284, the opening movement of which sounds like a piano reduction of an orchestral overture, and in which the ornate searchingly expressive slow penultimate variation of its finale looks forward to Beethoven.
Jean Muller’s first Mozart recording has already been well received. Although he deploys a modern Steinway grand and resorts to pedal effects, rubato and tempo-modification in ways that might be thought more Romantic than historically-informed, his touch is unfailingly light and lucid, while his tendency to treat Mozart’s markings of forte and piano as gradings of emphasis, rather than sharp contrast of dynamics suggests that he is well aware of late 18th-century practice. Mozart is known to have disliked choppy playing and advocated smoothness of fingering ‘so that the music flows like oil’ – as it often does in this new release. The recorded piano sound is lustrous and life-like.