Piano Sonatas, Vol. 3 – K 280, 310, 330 and 545
Jean Muller (piano)
Hänssler HC20065 55:81 mins
The great Artur Schnabel held that Mozart’s piano sonatas are ‘too easy for children, too difficult for grown-ups.’ Certainly, securing a perfect balance between tempo, touch, phrasing and expression, while retaining a sense of spontaneity in textures of such crystalline clarity, is a stringent test for the professional pianist, all too easily tempted to insinuate self-conscious interpretative nuances. It is a test that is largely passed by Jean Muller in this third volume of his complete Mozart sonatas. As before, he tempers his modern Steinway with a light and luminous touch; expressive rubato and pedal effects are used with discretion, tempos convincingly chosen, avoiding extremes. Though he tends to smooth over Mozart’s periodic demands for abrupt dynamic contrasts, everything flows.
The most substantial work in this collection is the troubled Sonata in A minor that Mozart wrote in Paris in 1778 in the wake of his mother’s death. This is often treated as a proto-Beethoven rampage. Muller retains a more Mozartian moderation, but manages no less to convey the real anguish behind the grinding sequences of the first movement development and the feeling of tender regret in the Andante. The A minor is preceded by pellucid accounts of the cheerful C major Sonata, composed in 1783, and the early F major, with an especially sensitive shaping of the long melodic line of its melancholy siciliana slow movement. Finally, we have the all-too familiar little C major Sonata, ‘for beginners’, so oft maltreated even by children, to which Muller somehow contrives to bring a Spring-like freshness.
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