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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Fantasia in c, k396 (1782) [8.47]
Fantasia in d, K397 (1787) [5.55]
Fantasia in c, K475 (1785) [12.23]
Sonata in #7 in C, K309 (1777)
Sonata #14 in c, K457 (1784)
Cyprien Katsaris, piano
Recording Teldec Studio, Berlin, December 1988
Notes (1 page) in English, Français, and Deutsch. No photos.
Originally released on Teldec
WARNER APEX 2564-60521-2 [64.09]


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Comparison recordings

Emile Naoumoff, Fantasias, Sonata #14, Rondo in a - EMI 74927-2

Having previously admired Katsaris’s recordings of Liszt Symphonic transcriptions and Schumann Etudes, I approached this disk with much favourable expectation and was not disappointed.

The playing is exemplary - clear, bright, and with varied textures and rich drama. The instrument is a modern grand piano, but there is neither any inappropriate expansion of the tonality nor is there any obvious constriction of the range, resulting in an authentic and natural sonority. Failure to understand Mozart’s humour, his mercurial sense of fun, even in his serious works, is a frequent complaint I have against some Mozart interpreters, present company fervently excepted. Katsaris allows, but does not over-emphasise (as does Glenn Gould, for instance) Mozart’s little jokes against himself in the fantasia preludes where he indulges in a little banging and measured banality, just to remind you how lucky you are when he gets back to work.

The Sonata K457 is especially interesting in the adagio where Mozart gives Beethoven the tune for his Pathétique Sonata, and also invents quite a lot of Liszt. The opening of the d minor fantasia K397 reminds one of Beethoven’s "Moonlight" sonata and of the first prelude in Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier, with which both Mozart and Beethoven were thoroughly familiar, showing the genealogy of the famous Beethoven work. Various movements on the disk contain more of Beethoven’s better ideas, in case there was any remaining doubt as to where they came from.

Programming the two sonatas in reverse chronological order on the disk points out how the early Mozart was more theatrical, while the later sonata fits better among the fantasias.

The Fantasies are fascinating works in that they show us what Mozart’s improvisation style was like and give hints to Mozart interpreters of how Mozart would have amplified his published keyboard works when playing them himself. Only one, K475, was completed and published. Kk396/7 were left to us in the form of sketches and completed (skilfully!) by others. These performances are among the very best I’ve heard, but I will continue to enjoy the Naoumoff recording (which also includes an exceptional performance of the Rondo in a, K511) for a slightly different but equally valid viewpoint.

Paul Shoemaker

 

 



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