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Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Piano Sonatas: No. 2 in A flat, J199/Op. 39 (1816) [34’45]; No. 3 in D minor, J206/Op. 49 (1816) [27’47]. Aufforderung zum Tanze (Invitation to the Dance) in D flat, J260/Op. 65 (1819) [10’12].
Mariaclara Monetti von Slawik (piano)
Rec. Tonstudio van Geest, Sandhausen, in February 2002. DDD
ARTE NOVA CLASSICS 74321 95157-2 [73’05]

Pianists hardly rush to further the cause of Weber’s piano sonatas. No. 3 appears in a performance by Sviatoslav Richter, no less, on Praga PR254031, while No. 2 has been put down by Emil Gilels. But apart from these luminaries, it is pianists of the second rank who flock to the catalogues.

All of which is a shame. These are marvellous works waiting to receive deserved public favour. The Sonata No. 2, in particular, is a dream, the key of A flat major bringing Weber’s ruminative side to the fore. It is good, then, that Mariaclara Monetti von Slawik has turned her attention towards these pieces. Monetti von Slawik has previously graced the catalogues with two volumes of Paisiello for ASV, for whom she recorded a further disc of works by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Dallapiccola. Her repertoire is commendably wide, it would appear, as befits a teacher of her evident stature (if her biog is anything to go by).

Monetti von Slawik fully realises the dreamily Romantic, almost improvisatory element of the first movement of the A flat sonata. Her arpeggiations are remarkably smooth and her use of pedal is entirely apposite. She revels in the quite daringly sparse writing of the Andante (the pauses are really quite pregnant), and her nimble fingers are given an ample work-out in the Scherzo. The finale (marked ‘Moderato e molto grazioso’) flows effortlessly out of the conclusion of the preceding movement. True, she is hardly a Gilels or a Richter, but one could hardly wish for more satisfying musicality, put entirely at the composer’s service.

The Third Sonata contrasts significantly with No. 2, despite the similar composition date. Marked ‘Allegro feroce’, this opens with a real statement of intent. The contrasting musical ideas and their interaction forms the cut and thrust of the musical argument. If the Andante con moto is interior without the soul-searching of, say, late Beethoven, it has a quirky, appoggiatura-laden middle section that is quite fascinating. Monetti von Slawik’s ability to carry legato melodies within forte is a particularly impressive facet of her playing. A pity the tricky finale, though well executed (she has very well trained fingers, of that there is no doubt), is low on the adrenalin.

The ten minute Invitation to the Dance rounds off the recital. The delicate introduction bodes well, and acts as another reminder tat this pianist feels at home in Weber’s early Romantic sound world. Perhaps some of the waltz sections could have been more uninhibited, and inner parts (which in some hands can come across as pure delight) can emerge as literal. This is not a performance to return to often: more of a sense of abandon is required.

Worth the minimal outlay for the meat of the disc, then, for the two Sonatas. It would be good to hear more from this pianist, particularly in the interesting fringes of the repertoire where she so obviously feels at home.

Colin Clarke

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