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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The Complete Works for Piano Vol. 3

Sonatas: C major K.330, A major K.331, F major K.332
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded February 16th 1995 and January 3rd 1999, Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO RECORDINGS CACD 9053-2 [64:35]

 

The third volume in Joyce Hatto’s Mozart cycle opens with a relatively little-played sonata. The probable reason for this is the first movement which is of a type commoner in Haydn than Mozart, a 2/4 "Allegro moderato" which almost goes four-in-a-bar rather than two. Such movements must not be hurried and in inexperienced hands they often are. Hatto’s tempo seems to me absolutely spot-on, allowing the music to unfold naturally and easily, yet not without hints of graver things, particularly in the sinking harmonies of the development section. The "Andante cantabile" is very warmly phrased, with a magically hushed change to the minor key in the middle section.

Writing of another C major sonata – K.309, included in Vol. 2 – I wondered if Hatto’s concluding "Allegretto" was not a shade slow for a finale. Here again she takes her time in the final "Allegretto" but this time I had no problems, finding it beautifully poised and graceful throughout. If you disagree, Alicia de Larrocha provides a swifter alternative. It is notable that Hatto, with her slower tempo, is able to play the left-hand semiquavers (16th-notes) staccato when the theme is reprised at b.9 and similar places, and very delightful they sound; de Larrocha’s faster tempo means they have to be played legato and ultimately her version comes out plainer. The two artists take remarkably similar views of the earlier movements.

Complete cycles are sometimes inclined to fall flat at the very moment they confront the most famous (and most-recorded) works in the series. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this happens with Hatto’s A major sonata – the one with the famous "Rondo alla turca" and almost equally famous variations as its opening movement – but I did find the initial statement of the variation theme less than ideally graceful. On the other hand, de Larrocha is somewhat heavy too, but I preferred the Spanish pianist in the first two variations, in which I found Hatto a little too perky. I also wondered about her very short, staccato left-hand chords in the first variation. Hatto lets them vibrate for their full value of one quaver (8th-note), which I must say I prefer. But Hatto’s account comes into its own later, with a very beautiful rendering of the "Adagio" variation and a joyful if unhurried final "Allegro".

The "Menuetto" reinforces my idea that perhaps de Larrocha has a little more spring when it comes to a dance movement, but I would not be without Hatto’s warmly expressive trio. In the celebrated finale Hatto score a definite win. For once she is slightly faster than de Larrocha (though nothing like as fast as young students will play it if their teacher doesn’t put his foot down) and her perky, up-front reading belongs securely to the world of Mozart’s janissaries in "Die Entführing". De Larrocha is a mite heavier here. There is another way – I seem to recollect that Gieseking took an affectingly gentle approach and I trust his pioneering cycle has not been forgotten.

The opening "Allegro" of the F major sonata is allowed to unfold with a steady, symphonic gait – reminding us that some of the figuration is after all not far removed from that in the first movement of the late E flat major symphony – and the "Adagio" is beautifully, calmly expressed. The "Assai Allegro" is full of delicate vivacity. Here, however, I began to wonder of this was not another of Hatto’s Klemperer-like finales that seem fine at the beginning but ultimately seem to lack "go". But then, when I turned to de Larrocha’s faster performance I began by admiring her Scarlatti-like brilliance and then began to feel I was not being allowed to savour the music to the full as it hustled by. So I’m very glad to have both of them. The differences between the two pianists are smaller in the first two movements and centre more on the rather richer-toned, but also closer, recording which RCA have given de Larrocha – the slightly gentler Concert Artist recording may strike some as more genuinely Mozartian.

All through this series I have found myself querying – rather than actually criticising – two matters. One is the tendency to make quavers very short and clipped (as noted above in the first variation of the A major) when Mozart himself put no staccato dot over them. Another example is the brief phrase in bb.39-40 (and those following) of the finale of K.330. Having written a staccato dot over the last semiquaver of b.39, surely Mozart could have written one over the first quaver of b.40 if he had wished. Would it not sound more beautiful if the quaver were allowed to sing for its full value? The other regards the interpretation of "appoggiaturas" and "acciaccaturas". Even allowing for discrepancies between the sources, surely my allegedly Urtext Peters Edition cannot be wrong in every case and Hatto frequently treats these two ornaments the opposite way round compared to what is generally considered correct, her "appoggiaturas" sharp and clipped, her "acciaccaturas" slower and more melodic. For example, if it is correct to treat the "acciaccatura" in b.19 of K.330 as two equal semiquavers, then why did Mozart actually write two equal semiquavers when the theme returns four bars later? Are the two equal semiquavers not intended as a variation on what was previously heard? With this, de Larrocha seems to agree. Or does Hatto have evidence that our normal interpretation of these ornaments is mistaken?

I should add that Hatto’s solutions are always musical in themselves and the matter is more one for specialised debate than for the general public, who can rest assured that they are getting faithful and very musical versions of these sonatas, worthy to be compared with many more blazoned names.

Christopher Howell

Volume 1  Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5

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