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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Cello Sonatas (transcribed by Alexander Kniazev)

Sonata in G K379 (1781) [25:08]
Sonata in G K301 (1778) [16:02]
Sonata in F K376 (1781) [19:23]
Alexander Kniazev (cello), Eduard Oganessian (piano)
Rec. Small Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow, November 1997. DDD

Given that he wrote 34 violin sonatas, it was very remiss of Mozart not to write any for the cello. My prior biases here were pro-cello and pro-transcription but, after listening to this disc, I returned to my Perlman/Barenboim set of the works in their original guise and enjoyed that much more. Perlman and Barenboim are hardly extreme authenticity merchants but at least I didn’t spend K379 wondering whether it was one of Beethoven’s "WoO"s - and their playing is fabulous too. The liner of this disc suggests that the transcriptions "transform the works ... the cello brings out the rich proto-Romantic sonorities implicit in the music". I am rather sceptical of this and doubt that the transformation is intrinsic to the transcriptions – it is probably more a question of Kniazev’s playing style than what he did on paper. At least, though, the labelling warns you what adverse effects to expect.

Kniazev’s Beethovenian approach is most obvious in K379 with a very slow tempo for the adagio introduction leading to a first movement lasting 14 minutes (Perlman/Barenboim take less than 8 minutes). So un-Mozart like is the beginning of this work that when I played this "blind" to my wife – a better guesser of composers than me – Brahms came back and my amusement was not directed at her! Matters improve a little in the second movement of two. This is based on a theme with five variations but the documentation errs in missing this out altogether on the track listing (I. Adagio II. Allegro is given instead of I. Adagio - Allegro).

The other G major sonata (K301) comes from an earlier period and is also in two movements. Much less inflation is applied here and I quite enjoyed this. The final work, in F major, comes somewhere between the two in approach and it is the central andante that sounds least Mozartian. If I sound critical of the players it should be understood that this relates entirely to matters of style. There is much fine playing by both artists and they make a good duo – the piano part being equally important in these works.

The recordings are a few years old and sound well if a little "upfront". The documentation is handsome apart from the blot mentioned above.

Others may tolerate or even enjoy Kniazev’s approach to this music more than me but it is hard to escape the feeling that this is Mozart dressed up as Beethoven (or even Brahms!).

Patrick C Waller




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