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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The music for two pianos and piano four hands

Sonata in C major for piano duet, K19d
Sonata in G major for piano duet, K357
Fugue in C minor, K401
Sonata in D major for two pianos, K448
Andante & Variations in G major for piano duet, K501
Fantasia for mechanical organ in F minor, K594
Fantasia for mechanical organ in F minor, K608
Larghetto & Allegro in E flat major, for two pianos (Compl. Stadler)
Sonata in D major for piano duet, K381
Sonata in B flat major for piano duet, K358
Adagio and Fugue in C minor for two pianos, K426 (K546)
Sonata in F major for piano duet, K497
Sonata in C major for piano duet, K521
Orit and Dalia Ouziel (pianos)
Rec April 1991, André Defossez, Brussels
PAVANE ADW 7244 [2CDs: 76.10 + 75.16]

 

Experience Classicsonline

Mozart's music for his own instrument, the piano, is always from the top-drawer, whether it be for solo performer, for four hands, for two pianos, or for piano and orchestra. These two discs have been well planned to cover as much music as possible, and they are generously filled.

The project also makes a commendable attempt to be complete, since it includes both shorter items and some pieces which were originally written for other media. The latter category includes the two works for mechanical organ, and the Adagio from the Adagio and Fugue, which is wrongly listed in the booklet as K426. In fact this Adagio is really K546, and was originally composed for strings, having been written to preface Mozart's own arrangement of the Fugue, K426. So what we have here is an anonymous transcription. The booklet should tell us this, but despite containing an excellent though rather general essay by Harry Halbreich, one of Europe's leading musicologists, the information is not forthcoming. Another mistake is that the F minor Fantasia, K608 is listed as K698.

The performances give much pleasure. While modern instruments are used (again the booklet is not forthcoming), the style of playing is absolutely right for this repertoire, with crisply articulated rhythms and a clear and direct articulation. Try the first movement Allegro from the C major, K521, for an excellent example of the playing at its best (CD2, TRACK 12: 0.00). The recording is abundantly lively and well focused, although sometimes a little close, giving emphasis to the rattling rhythms. This is not altogether a disadvantage because so much of the music relies on rhythmic vitality, but too much of it might become wearing, and some listeners may prefer a more mellow perspective.

Almost all the featured compositions are masterworks, particularly the later sonatas. An exception is the earliest piece, the C major Sonata, K19d 9CD1, TRACK 1: 0.00), which was written by the nine-year-old wunderkind, and sounds like it: all technique and less inspiration. The Ouziels, who hail from Tel Aviv, make a fine team, ranking alongside similar but more famous combinations, the Pekinels and the Labèques. And they match the standards of those eminent duos.

The approach tends to favour setting a pulse and staying attached to it. This is certainly valid, but at the same time there are other options, such as allowing for more fluidity and flexibility in phrasing the music and letting it breath and articulate its expressive nature. Of course the Ouziels do not deny these things, but tight ensemble is always their preference.

The best performances, fittingly enough, are of the best music: the later sonatas. These give great pleasure and are particularly well articulated, and best of all is the F major Sonata, K497. The central Andante (CD2, TRACK 10: 0.00) is quite splendid.


Terry Barfoot



 



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