Mozart: Piano Sonatas K281, 330 & 331; Variations K265

ALBUM TITLE: Mozart Piano Sonatas
WORKS: Piano Sonatas K281, 330 & 331; Variations K265
PERFORMER: Martino Tirimo (piano)
With its seemingly endless sequence of repetitions, a disc exclusively devoted to some of Mozart’s variations for solo piano may seem a less than enticing prospect. Yet Martino Tirimo’s selection is cleverly designed to maximise Mozart’s range of expression, the unbridled virtuosity of the Gluck Variations, K455, forming a delightful foil for the more modestly conceived ‘Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding’, K613. The novelty here is a little-known transcription which the composer made of the finale of his Clarinet Quintet. Despite the loss of the original chamber music timbre, the arrangement for the most part works extremely well, though the theme’s dotted rhythms, appearing as the background to the first of the six variations, doesn’t seem to lie particularly easily for the left hand. Such momentary problems are hardly noticeable in these engagingly characterised performances; Tirimo, supported once again by the warmly ambient acoustic of the Mendelssohn Saal at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, projects the lyrically operatic aspects of the slow variations as well as the many moments of deadpan humour to delightful effect. Nonetheless, it’s somewhat curious that the ‘Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman’ variations should feature again at the end of one of the two discs featuring Piano Sonatas. But setting aside this unnecessary duplication, the performances of K281, K330 and in particular K331 have much elegance and charm, and are thankfully bereft of the somewhat harder piano tone that surfaced from time to time in earlier instalments in Tirimo’s ongoing cycle. The other disc of Sonatas is slightly less convincing – the forte passages in the opening Allegro of the F major K332 are a bit strident, as is some of the contrapuntal passage work in the outer movements of the K576. On the other hand, K333 and the famous Sonata Facile, K545, have considerable poise. Making benchmark recommendations in this repertory is by no means easy since each performer couples different material on their respective discs. For the Variations, Tirimo’s certainly versions deserve serious consideration. In the Sonatas, however, Ronald Brautigam on BIS still offers a more immediate and stimulating musical experience. Erik Levi