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Since this review was written it has emerged that at least some of Joyce Hatto's recordings for Concert Artist are based on copies of the work of other pianists (further information here). In those cases for which clear scientific evidence is available, details will be added as they become available.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The Piano Sonatas
CD 1 [70:46] CAIPO 90512

Sonata no.1 in C K.279 [14:42]
Sonata no.2 in F K.280 [13:40]
Sonata no.3 in B flat K.281 [15:01]
Sonata no.4 in E flat K.282 [13:23]
Sonata no.5 in G K.283 [13:49]
rec. 2-3 January 1995, 30 March 2005

CD 2 [66:52] CAIPO 90522

Sonata no.6 in D K.284 [27:56]
Sonata no.7 in C K.309 [19:36]
Sonata no.8 in A minor K.310 [19:13]
rec. 23-24 February 1995, 30 March 2005

CD 3 [64:11] CAIPO 90532

Sonata no.10 in C K.330 [20:04]
Sonata no.11 in A K.331 [24:18]
Sonata no.12 in F K.332 [19:45]
rec. 16 January 1995, 3 January 1999, 8 September 2005

CD 4 [71:21] CAIPO 90542

Sonata no.9 in D K.331 [16:42]
Sonata no.13 in B flat K.333 [23:13]
Fantasia in C minor K.475 [12:00]
Sonata no.14 in C minor K.457 [21:22]
rec. 17 April 1995, 8 September 2005

CD 5 [70:01] CAIPO 90552

Sonata no.16 in C K.545 [10:44]
Sonata no.17 in B flat K.570 [18:30]
Sonata no.18 in D K.576 [15:53]
Sonata no.15 in F K.533/494 [24:59]
rec. 6-7 January 1995, 9 September 2005

Joyce Hatto (piano)
rec. Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge, dates as above
CONCERT ARTISTS IPO01052 numbers as above (5CDs packaged together in slim-line case with a booklet - German booklet available on request)

 

These records were originally issued separately and my reviews of all five are to be found on the site. I am returning to them now because I realize the existence of a possible injustice. Since I wrote the reviews the discs have been re-edited and re-mastered – "Post Recording Production" is now credited to Roger Chatterton. Furthermore, each disc contains at least one part newly recorded during 2005. We are not told which – whole movements? a passage here and there? – and after a few attempts to identify them I decided it would be impertinent to pursue such detective work any further. Having just heard the cycle through again while reviewing the reissued cycle by Lili Kraus, and having compared the beginnings of several movements in the original issues, I can report that Joyce Hatto did not radically rethink any movements during her last year. It was and remains a superb set.

As regards the re-mastering, the first two discs have acquired a softer sound with more reverberation surrounding it. I’m not sure that I don’t prefer the original brighter sound, but this is a matter for personal taste and may also be affected by your equipment and the acoustic of your listening-room. For some reason the remaining discs sound pretty well as before. In short, for a cycle consistently illuminated by an inner spirituality, it would be hard to imagine better.

My second reason for returning to these performances is that my detailed reviews led to some correspondence with the pianist which seems to me too valuable to keep to myself, even though Joyce Hatto has touched on some of the same subjects in public interviews. Principal among these was the "Memorandum to Christopher Howell" dated 11 May 2004:

Dear Mr. Howell,

I have been reading your notes for my Mozart endeavours. It so refreshing to read a review of one’s work in which the reviewer has the interest to take time, patience and a little research to make comments and justify them. […] I don’t very often write to music critics but here I am again with you. I excuse myself because in some of your comments you seem to be inviting me to do so!

I have always found that playing Mozart is a minefield when one departs at all from the "accepted" urtext editions. However, in a longish life, I have had the opportunity of seeing various manuscripts and copies of early editions which do have interesting variants. I suppose that over time some small variants I have retained and others, through ‘admonishment’ and a change of personal taste, I have disowned. When I studied with Zbigniew Drzewiecki in Warsaw he gave me some photocopies (photo fax did not exist then) of some early printed editions in which Mozart had written some variants for the daughter of Christian Cannabich. I understand that Artaria acquired these but did not bother to make the expenditure to prepare new plates after Mozart died. I loaned these photocopies several years ago to a well known and loved international pianist […] who departed this world a few years back. It would appear that he departed with my photocopies as they could not be found by his widow among his papers. […]

The question of "Appoggiaturas" and "Acciaccaturas" is another matter. I have never been a slave to ornamentation and decoration. My rule of thumb is simply to sing it and do what seems natural. After all, Mozart did say that you found his tempo by singing it. So many pianists ruin a perfectly singable and beautiful melodic line by simply sticking on ornaments as if with elastoplast. […] However, I must say that you are absolutely right with regard to the theme of K.331! I have agonised and spent many sleepless hours wondering how that came to pass. I have no excuse, I played it and I now have to live with it – that is the problem with recording [I understand a wrong take was used; there need be no reservations about the performance as it now stands – CH]. On other points too I can accept your observations as being completely valid and I admit that sometimes I am a little perverse in preferring to differ!

As you are aware, I did have the opportunity of playing many of these sonatas to Clara Haskil. She did not teach the piano as such but listened! She was not adverse to making textual changes in her performances and these mostly escape comment as one is swept up by the sheer musicality of playing. One comment that she did make to me (when she liked some Bach that I had played) and one that I have always passed on to my students. "There is no such thing as classical and romantic – all the greatest music has depth of emotion – if you can’t find it then simply you are not a musician."

So, thank you again for your comments, addressed to me as well your general readers, and thank you for the trouble that you have taken to balance your review. I have always had a regard for Alicia de Larrocha and I was upset that her Mozart playing was dismissed by some critics who should have known better and treated her performances with more thought and care. Her musical history and dedication deserves more discerning comment.

With regards and kind thoughts,

Sincerely,

Joyce Hatto

A little later, with regard to my feeling that some of the finales might be a notch too slow, she concluded: "I am sending you the Liszt Transcendental Etudes – I don’t think that you will find me gumming up the motorway in those". I didn’t, but by a mistake of the office boy the copy intended for me, on which Joyce Hatto had jocularly scrawled "that old slowcoach", was sent to my colleague Jonathan Woolf. His review of the disc does not mention his reaction to the phrase!

Very near the end, on 8 May 2006, Joyce Hatto wrote to me on some other matters, even apologising (!!) for the fact that she had been "behind with all correspondence of late due to very necessary hospital treatment" – this being a casual reference to the terminal cancer she had been fighting for so many years. In this letter she mentioned that

Critics, over the years, have never approved of my Mozart. "Tame", "Ordinary", "Run of the Mill", "Stylistically arguable", "Chopinesque", "Lisztian" – the latter meant, I feel, to be particularly insulting. However, I have always rather liked that comment as I do think that Mozart should sparkle. It was obviously just too exciting for that jaded palette.

This latter comment raises the question that Joyce Hatto may have been more of a firebrand in Mozart in her younger days. I can only repeat my recommendation for a cycle which stands out for its spiritual qualities. Listening to it again as a comparison with Lili Kraus’s more extrovert, intermittently magnificent, manner, has only confirmed that point.

Christopher Howell

Reviews of individual issues

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5

see also review of the Lili Kraus cycle

 

 



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