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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata No.10 in C major K330 (1781-83) [15:25]
Piano Sonata No.11 in A major K331 (1781-83) [25:31]
Piano Sonata No.12 in F major K332 (1781-83) [16:31]
Piano Sonata No.14 in C minor K457 (1784) [18:37]
Maria Joćo Pires (piano)
rec. 1974
REGIS RRC1345 [76:06]

Experience Classicsonline

I like Regis’s selection policy but dislike the complete lack of recording information. It’s doubly important here since Maria Joćo Pires has taken on two cycles of the Mozart sonatas over the years. The first was for Denon/Target in 1974 and the second came many years later for DG. Regis has disinterred - I assume – the Denon recordings, but you would not otherwise know, and that’s unhelpful to say the least.

Pires was not then, I’m afraid, my kind of Mozart sonata pianist. So, acknowledging the fault may be mine, I have to say that when she does spring to life, that’s when I like her best. The disappointing thing is how seldom she does spring to life. These are easeful, fluent, legato-rich and clement performances. They avoid a sense of drama and inner contrast in favour of emollient gentility. If that’s how you like your Mozart, fine – you’ll love these performances.

Her C major is pliant, sensitively shaped, orientated toward a treble sonority, especially in chordal passages, and not especially vital, though the finale has moments of bright, breezy articulation. The A major is notable for the long opening movement with its succession of variations; these she plays warmly but with a certain lacklustre quality hard to define. The Alla Turca finale is one of the most famous pieces in all music but Pires articulates it so slowly, so limpidly, that one feels she is making A Point. Its refined introspection is so at odds with the feel of the music that one must note its aberrant quality. Wanda Landowska would have a fit listening to this mincing affair.

There’s plenty of light and shade and clarity in Pires’s playing but some disruptive slowing down afflicts the finale of the F major, whilst phrase endings are tapered unnecessarily in the opening of the C minor. These last two sonatas are more successful than the earlier ones, though the climate of her performances of them remains cool.

I can’t say I much liked this disc; documentation as noted is non-existent in respect of recording details and Pires’s 1974 self has been overtaken by her more recent recordings, though she’s hardly now the most exciting exponent of this repertoire on the circuit.

Jonathan Woolf



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