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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata in F major K. 533/494 [23:48]
Sonata in E flat major K. 282 [13:44]
Sonata in D major K. 284 [27:44]
Zeynep Ucbasaran (piano)
rec. 24-25 October 2006, Abravanel Hall, Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, California
EROICA JDT 3311 [65:16]


This is the sixth recording by Santa Barbara-based pianist Zeynep Ucbasaran. I have reviewed them all for MusicWeb and have found her work, developing from a slightly timid first offering, increasingly interesting. This, her second Mozart disc, seems to me to represent a further step along the line (link to previous Mozart review).

Zeynep – since her first name appears everywhere in capitals and her second in small letters I shall gratefully take the hint to use this more easily remembered first name – has gathered together three of Mozart’s more anomalous sonatas. The F major is a composite work, two late movements combined for publication with a revised version of an earlier Rondo. Still, the three movements seem to fit. The E flat is the only Mozart sonata to begin with a full-scale slow movement. The Adagio-Minuet-Finale pattern was more likely in Haydn, but it draws from Mozart one of the most beautiful of his earlier slow movements. The D major is the only Mozart sonata which ends with a set of variations. The sheer length of this movement – almost 17 minutes in this by no means slow performance – has discouraged performers from programming a work which hogs half the programme. They may also have been puzzled by the central “Rondeau en Polonaise” which is rather static and over-ornate.

Zeynep’s playing has always been unfailingly musical, but I find more temperament here than previously. The recording itself is big and bold and transferred at a rather high level, creating an initial impression of a degree of aggressiveness. Certainly, Zeynep makes the most of every piano/forte contrast, but once I had attuned to this I found it all to the good in Mozart works that need a degree of sales-talk. If you prefer a more Olympian, sublime approach you may prefer the late Haebler cycle on Denon or, as this is not easy to obtain, de Larrocha on RCA may be a fair substitute. I might prefer this approach in the calm opening Adagio of K.282 where Zeynep’s staccato left-hand semiquavers (16th notes) were not much to my taste, but elsewhere I appreciated the immediacy of communication Zeynep finds. The first two movements of the F major sonata get an emotional weight they can easily bear.

Zeynep is signally successful in the long variation movement of the D major work. If Haebler tries to disguise the length by making it as simply beautiful as possible, Zeynep goes one better by making it all as interesting as possible. Without distortion, she finds maximum characterization in each variation, at times making them seem blueprints for some of Beethoven’s Bagatelles. The Adagio variation is played with deep feeling. For once I reached the end of this movement feeling that the prospect of hearing it again would be welcome. It was at this point that I realized that the gifted player of the earlier records is developing into a pianist of some stature. I wonder if she might now record some of the Mozart concertos?

An excellent recommendation, then, for three of Mozart’s rarer sonatas played with real conviction.

Christopher Howell 




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