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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The Complete Works for Piano Vol. 5

Sonatas: C major K.545, B flat major K.570, D major K.576, F major K.533/494
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded January 6th-7th 1995, Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO RECORDINGS CACD 9055-2 [70:38]

 

While reviewing Volume 1 in this cycle, I remarked that Joyce Hatto "doesn’t actually ‘do’ much with the music, she just plays it with a simplicity and a serenity which made me think of Clara Haskil". Since then I have learnt from Mr. Barrington-Coupe of Concert Artist that Hatto did in fact study most of the sonatas with Clara Haskil. I suppose I could have found this out by looking up Hatto’s CV but I am rather glad to have arrived at that conclusion with my own ears! Mr. Barrington-Coupe also quotes some of Haskil’s dicta to Hatto which (with his permission) I repeat:

"We must rub away all the ideas, gloss and lipstick added to the text by successions of editors, flashy pianists (some named) and get back to the original intentions of the composer who knew better than all of them".

"Keep it simple and let the music speak for itself."

"You, the pianist, are not important because it is the composer we wish to hear."

"Mozart is important, Haskil is not, Hatto is not (some other names were mentioned but these,  out of respect, are not repeated), the music speaks through you but it is Mozart's voice. You are a 'Medium' and if you are faithful to the music then Mozart will always be with you."

I hope my reaction is not being coloured by what I now know, but this final disc in the series seems to me the finest of all and a perfect demonstration of the ideals which Hatto learnt from Haskil. The so-called "easy" C major sonata is unfolded with a simplicity and a naturalness which makes it sound the easiest thing in the world but which in reality has taken a lifetime to achieve. Just one illustration; after the second subject of the first movement, with its "buzzing" accompaniment, Hatto permits herself a touch of pedal for the new arpeggio-based theme. The music suddenly becomes illuminated with human warmth. The precise dosing of that touch of pedal could have been no easy matter to get exactly right.

The same simplicity and naturalness is maintained in the much grander B flat major sonata, possibly Mozart’s finest sonata for piano. The D major, rather like Mozart’s last concerto for piano and orchestra, also in D, is sometimes considered a relatively superficial work – D major was always a "festive" key for Mozart. While lacking nothing in brilliance, Hatto finds the music behind the notes. The disc concludes with the F major sonata, presumably left as a "postscript" because of its composite nature – or did Hatto feel that its gentle concluding rondo would make a suitable farewell for the cycle? In some earlier discs I had slight reservations over Hatto’s way of playing some of Mozart’s Allegretto finales as gentle farewells rather than brilliant conclusions, but this particular movement is marked Andante in my Peters edition (though it is apparently marked Allegretto in the edition Hatto is using) and the tempo sounds perfect to me.

With regard to editions, Joyce Hatto has been kind enough to inform me that while she was studying with Zbigniew Drzewiecki in Warsaw he gave her photocopies of some early printed editions in which Mozart had written variants for the daughter of Christian Cannabich. A reminder that for a composer his music is always "work in progress" even after publication. These annotated copies were apparently acquired by Artaria but the variants were not incorporated in subsequent editions. I wonder what happened to these copies, especially in view of the fact that Hatto’s own photocopies were lent to a famous pianist who never returned them. Unfortunately the so-called Urtext editions rarely provide much evidence as to how they reached their conclusions – strange really when one thinks that even the humblest scholastic edition of a play by Shakespeare usually has pages and pages of "apparatus criticus", so it is difficult to know if these variants have been seen by the various editors.

I have made comparisons all along with the RCA set recorded by Alicia de Larrocha, since I gave this "record of the month" status when I reviewed it. Anyone who took my advice and bought that set can be well content, but I would now very marginally prefer Hatto. Basically, the differences are that de Larrocha sees the sonatas as a historical sequence beginning with rococo works leaning on Johann Christian Bach and looking back to Scarlatti, then gradually acquiring breadth and maturity as the cycle proceeds, while Hatto finds the mature Mozartian voice even in the earliest works. Both views are obviously valid. By the time of the late works in Hatto’s 5th volume the difference between the two has become minimal – de Larrocha takes one second (!) longer over the first movement of the B flat sonata, her slow movements are sometimes broader still than Hatto’s and her finales not noticeably faster. It is interesting that, while both artists are concerned with projecting Mozart rather than themselves, the artist’s personality does remain nevertheless – de Larrocha the more impetuous, Hatto gentler – and it is all the more fascinating to find this when, as often in these four works, their tempi and basic approach seem, on the face of it, to be almost identical. For this reason I would strongly recommend those who have the de Larrocha set to supplement it with at least Hatto’s last volume – they will be rewarded by many hours of fascinating comparisons.

For the record, neither set includes the composite K.547a sonata; de Larrocha also provides the Rondos and the D minor Fantasia but since the Hatto cycle is actually the first five volumes of the complete works for piano I presume all these and much else will be released in due course.

Christopher Howell

Reviews Mozart Volume 1  Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5

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