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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Walter Gieseking’s Complete Mozart Recordings 1951-55 Volume I
Sonatas for Piano: no 1 in C major, K 279 (189d) (1775) [12:11]; no 2 in F major, K 280 (189e) (1775) [11:01]; no 3 in B flat major, K 281 (189f) (1775) [13:25]; no 4 in E flat major, K 282 (189g) (1775) [10:56]; no 5 in G major, K 283 (189h) (1775) [13:13]; no 6 in D major, K 284 (205b) (1775) [22:04];  no 7 in C major, K 309 (284b) (1777) [16:08]; no 8 in A minor, K 310 (300d) (1778) [14:01]; no 9 in D major, K 311 (284c) (1777) [15:58]; no 10 in C major, K 330 (300h) (1781-1783) [18:40]; no 11 in A major, K 331 (300i) (1781-1783) [16:49]; no 12 in F major, K 332 (300k) (1781-1783) [13:46]; no 13 in B flat major, K 333 (315c) (1783-1784) [17:01]
Minuet for Piano in: G major, K 1 (1e) (1761-1762) [1:41]; F major, K 2 (1762) [0:46]; F major, K 4 (1762) [0:56]; F major, K 5 (1762) [0:58]
Allegro for Piano in B flat major, K 3 (1762) [0:36]
Variations (8) for Piano in G major on "Laat ons Juichen, Batavieren", K 24 (1766) [5:26]
Variations (7) for Piano in D major on "Willem von Nassau", K 25 (1766) [4:22]
Variations (6) for Piano in F major, K 54 (547b) (1788) [3:35]
Minuet for Piano in D major, K 94 (73h) (1769) [1:06]
Variations (6) for Piano in G major on Salieri's "Mio caro Adone", K 180 (1773) [4:47]
Variations (12) for Piano on a Minuet by J C Fischer, K 179 (189a) (1774) [10:30]
Minuets (8) for Keyboard, K 315a (315g) (1773) [14:03]
Variations (8) for Piano in F major on "Dieu d'amour", K 352 (374c) (1781) [6:01]
Allegro for Piano in B flat major, K 400 (372a) (1781) [4:50]
Prelude and Fugue for Piano in C major, K 394 (383a) (1782) [8:05]
Fugue for Piano in G minor, K 401 (375e) (1782) [4:00]
Fantasia for Piano in C minor, K 396 (385f) (1782) [7:57]
Fantasia for Piano in D minor, K 397 (385g) (1782) [5:11]
Suite for Piano in C major, K 399 (385i) (1782) [8:47]
Variations (6) for Piano in F major on "Salve tu, Domine", K 398 (416e) (1783) [6:42]
Walter Gieseking (piano)
rec. London. 1953-54. ADD
ANDROMEDA ANDRCD 5051 [5 CDs: 71:30 + 62:25 + 68:57 + 69:02 + 65:42]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Walter Gieseking’s Complete Mozart Recordings 1951-55 Volume II
Piano Sonatas: No. 14 in C minor, K. 457 (1784) [15:48]; No. 15 in C major ("Sonata semplice") K. 545 (1788) [9:40]; No. 16 in B flat major, K. 570 (1789) [17:48]; No. 17 in D major ("Trumpet", "Hunt"), K. 576 (1789) [13:38]; No.18 in F major, K. 533/494 [19:16];
Adagio in B minor K540 [6:12]
Allegro and Allegretto for piano in F major, K. Anh. 135 (K. 547a) [5:47]
Kleiner Trauermarsch (Little Funeral March) for piano in C minor, (K. 453a) [2:20]
Variations (8) on "Come un agnello," for piano in A major, K. 460 (K. 454a) [7:36]
Variations (10) on "Unser dummer Pöbel meint," for piano in G major, K. 455 [13:32]
Fantasia for piano in C minor, K. 475 [11:52]
Movements for piano in B flat major (spurious), K(3) 498a (K. Anh. C 25.04/05) [7:28]
Variations (12) on an anonymous allegretto for piano in B flat major, K. 500 [5:34]
German dances (6) for orchestra, K. 509 [10:46]
Rondo in D major K485 [4:45]
Rondo for piano No. 3 in A minor, K. 511 [7:49]
Variations (9) on a minuet by Duport for piano in D major, K. 573 [8:11]
Gigue for piano in G major ("Eine kleine Gigue"), K. 574 [1:36]
Andantino for piano in E flat major, K. 236 (K. 588b) [4:41]
Minuet for piano in D major, K. 355 (K. 576b) [2:35]
Variations (8) on "Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding," for piano in F major, K. 613 [13:21]
Andante for mechanical organ in F major, K. 616 [6:04]
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K466 (1785) [30:32] #
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major K488 (1786) [24:41]
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor K491 (1786) [31:52]
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major K503 (1786) [31:40]
Quintet in E flat major for piano and winds K452 [21:22] *
Walter Gieseking (piano)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
Philharmonia Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud #
Philharmonia Wind Ensemble *
rec. London, 1953-54
ANDROMEDA ANDRCD 5057 [5 CDs: 69:11 + 59:43 + 68:43 + 63:16 + 78:59] 

One look at these by now classic recordings will remind the assiduous collector of French EMI’s Gieseking-Mozart release on Références. The running order is, so far as I can tell, identical, as is the distribution of the discs. The only difference is the extra helping of concerti and the chamber collaboration with the Philharmonia principals. Those who have that set will need no inducement to turn to these two bargain-priced five-CD collections. Those who have not yet made Gieseking’s acquaintance in the sonatas, and the concertos, may find the price tempting though one should be warned that there are, as is habitual from this source, no notes and the remastering is no more than competent, and no advance on the French box. 

Gieseking’s Mozart was once as venerated as his Debussy, though one senses its spell wore thinner rather earlier. If Gieseking’s influence over the French repertoire was to prove ironically baleful to those who aped his pedal rich impressionism but failed to comprehend his perception of nuance, then with Mozart we face another iniquity. Gieseking was by anyone’s standards simply a very inconsistent Mozartian. Moments of translucent passagework, of supreme articulacy and joyous aeration, ply their trade next to baffling inconsistencies of emotive response; flippancies and fripperies of right hand mechanics. The startling jostles with the statuesque. Affection kisses indifference.

His clarity is a primary component of his approach. He is scrupulous in not over pedalling – in fact his foot-off approach is highly welcome throughout. He doesn’t play fast and loose with note values. The technique is generally unruffled – or as often as makes the ruffles understandable or at least explicable. But the drawback is one of a strange lack of engagement in certain sonatas or movements. This is not quite the old canard as to his “coldness.” It relates to a certain primness of approach, a pecking, rather fussy nonchalance. Where he is good he’s exemplary. Try the ebullient left hand forcing the pace in the allegro finale of K279 or the very generously Haydnesque stance in K291. But what about the hints of rhythmic unsteadiness that recur – what about the same sonata’s Andante amoroso?

The Minuets can be prim, there’s no doubt. Try K282  to see if you follow Gieseking. Or the rather over aggressive stance of the G major K283. But then turn to K309 and you will find a splendidly buoyant response, alive, rhythmically incisive and full of bonhomie. His con spirito in K311 takes on aristocratic colouring but the trills of the ensuing slow movement are pellucid and affectingly done. The great A minor K310 is a ravishing study though not quite one in Lipatti’s class – he just misses the yielding innocence of it – though he’s the equal of almost anyone else. But then turn to K331 and we don’t find much generosity of spirit. K457 has its fare share of rhythmic unsteadiness but Gieseking is at least at pains to contrast the opening abruptness of the Allegro with the limpidity of the following Adagio. At such moments one is quite prepared to offer him as much licence as he requires, and indeed deserves.

If only the Fantasy in C minor K475 had been played with less detachment it would have repaid study, though it is unarguable that Gieseking’s stance on this and other matters is highly personalised. The sonata in B flat K333 reinforces these puzzling inconsistencies in tone and commitment. Maybe the vast undertaking of these solo works – sonatas, variations, Fantasies, Minuets, Preludes and Fugues - had simply not all been digested and internalised to the same degree. We all know of Gieseking’s prodigious memory but this kind of Complete Edition was unusual enough at the time and must have tested even his fabled powers.

The concertos are famous recordings divided equally between Hans Rosbaud and von Karajan. As with Philharmonia principal Dennis Brain’s Horn Concerto performances it’s to Rosbaud I would turn in preference to Karajan. He was just that much more dynamic and incisive a figure and where Brain, for example, left behind documents of concerto work with both conductors Rosbaud’s association seems to me the more impressive and less self-regarding, less concerned with legato and more with expressive intent. Nevertheless there is much that is beautiful in all these performances, playing of great beauty of tone and touch, though maybe just slightly too under-characterised for the ultimate in projection. Lovers of cadenzas may note that the D minor is the Beethoven and the C major is Gieseking’s own. In the A major and C minor Concertos he plays the Hummel cadenzas. The Quintet is a glorious recording but doubtless too well known to need much explication – one of the great recordings of the piece. You may well have encountered all four concertos and the quintet on EMI CHS7 63709-2, though the quintet was for long a staple of the EMI French Référence LP series.

For all its unevenness Gieseking’s Mozart venture was a prodigious one. His sonata recordings remain vibrant examples of his musicianship; the concerto recordings are generally passed over in favour of performances by other of his contemporaries – Schnabel, say, or Fischer, Lipatti or Solomon – which is a pity. The Quintet with Sidney Sutcliffe, Bernard Walton, Cecil James and Dennis Brain is a masterpiece of a performance; it’s multiply available, not least on Testament SBT1091 where it’s coupled with the Sinfonia concertante K297b and Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Wind Op. 16. The historically and musically minded must make sure that they have at least some of these in their collection.

Jonathan Woolf 


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