Mozart Piano Sonatas: Christian Blackshaw

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: Piano Sonatas
WORKS: Piano Sonatas, Vol 1: Nos 1, 2, 8, 9 & 17
PERFORMER: Christian Blackshaw
CATALOGUE NO: WHLive 0061/2

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Christian Blackshaw’s Mozart Piano Sonata Series at Wigmore Hall garnered a unanimously positive response from London’s critics. So it seems entirely appropriate that these performances should now be made available to a wider audience. Certainly the first volume proves to be a completely engaging experience. Although Blackshaw’s playing operates within a deliberately restricted dynamic range, perhaps acknowledging the gentler sonorities of the early keyboard for which these works were originally written, the sound he extracts from the modern piano is subtle and astonishingly varied. In the slow movements, Blackshaw’s velvety tone and fluid control of rubato perfectly encapsulate the intimacy and longing of Mozart’s cantabile melodies. At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, his articulation in the fast outer movements has razor-sharp clarity as well as great energy and exuberance.

Without doubt, the most impressive feature of Blackshaw’s interpretations is the way in which he varies the character of these essentially didactic pieces. In the first disc, for example, it’s instructive to compare his approach to the opening movements of the C major (K279), F major (K280) and D major (K311) Sonatas. Although each work shares common stylistic fingerprints, Blackshaw never takes these gestures for granted, making us listen afresh to every nuance and sharing with us his delight at the composer’s unexpected twists and turns of harmony. Just as impressive is the British pianist’s superbly dramatic account of the A minor Sonata (K310). The outer movements are bold and fiery but without any harshness of tone, while Blackshaw is magical in the wistful melancholy of the central Andante cantabile movement. 

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Erik Levi