"London Sketchbook (1764/5)" is the brainchild
of Hans-Udo Kreuels who is a composer, pianist, and professor
of piano and song accompaniment at the Vorarlberg Conservatory
in Feldkirch. The story begins with the Mozart family taking a
3½ year trip through Europe that commenced in June 1763 when Wolfgang
was only seven years old. The Mozarts spent over a year in London
where Wolfgang met Johann Christian Bach and was exposed to many
new musical trends and ideas.
While in London, Wolfgang independently wrote
a number of musical pieces, many of which were left incomplete
or in fragments; further, Mozart was not as yet scrupulous concerning
his notation, adding to the lack of completeness. Enter Hans-Udo
Kreuels who took on the task of realizing and completing a new
edition of these very youthful pieces from Mozart.
How good is the 8 year-old Mozart’s music? Very
good indeed, although there is a huge gap in the musical inspiration
between young Mozart and the tremendous composer he would become.
Still, the disc affords us the opportunity to glean some insight
into Mozart’s development. Some will consider these early pieces
fascinating from a historical perspective.
I wish I could strongly recommend the disc, but
the instrumentation is problematic. Although not specified, Kreuels
plays a modern piano, and the instrument can’t possibly provide
the colors and pungent tones of a fortepiano or harpsichord. As
a result, it doesn’t take long for a blandness to set it.
There is another problem that I really didn’t
notice until the 28th Track where the Vorarlberg Conservatory
Ensemble enters the picture with strings, flutes and bassoons.
The instrumental variety makes the music come alive with a pulse
largely missing in the works played on solo piano.
In summary, I feel that Kreuels, in using a modern
piano, did not choose wisely in this otherwise well-conceived
project. Further, I can easily imagine playing of greater vitality
and edge than Kreuels has to offer. Without doubt, a future recording
of these works will be made using the harpsichord or fortepiano.
I recommend waiting for that recording.