Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonatas (complete) (c.1775-1789)
Maria Jo„o Pires (piano)
rec. January-February 1974, Iino Hall, Tokyo.
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94271 [5 CDs: 59:41 + 64:53 + 66:28 + 66:16 + 67:16]

One of the earliest DDD recordings in existence, this five CD set of recordings which originally appeared on Denon, is the latest and cheapest incarnation of Maria Jo„o Piresí recordings made in 1974 for Nippon Columbia when she was not yet thirty. She was then in the plenitude of her youthful powers: fresh, artless, technically flawless and wholly, selflessly dedicated to the advocacy of some of Mozartís happiest inventions.

The extraordinary thing about these recordings is that the Brilliant producers have never seen any need to re-master them and they are right. There is none of the edge or glassiness often associated with early digital technology: the sound is warm, rich and full despite its 37 years. My only observation regarding the clarity of the sonics is that occasionally I would like a little more weight and definition in the left hand, but whether that is due to interpretative or recording choices, I cannot say.

I recently spent some time becoming acquainted with the Mozart Sonatas as played by Walter Klien (VoxBox 5026 and 5046), who strikes me as a similarly unselfconscious artist who placed delicacy, freshness and charm above the desire to stamp his personality upon the music. I do not necessarily always want to hear Beethoven played in this refined, non-interventionist manner Ė but Beethoven is not Mozart, whose music responds to Piresí simplicity of utterance. Having said that, both artists can make very different choices of temp, as in the most famous music in the set, the ďAlla TurcaĒ from K331 where Klienís playful impetuousness contrasts markedly with Piresí wistful poise. He hurtles through it at 3:07 while she takes literally half as long again. Both seems to work but perhaps a more revealing comparison may be made between their accounts of K 570, a more mature work redolent of Mozartís later, more profound style. To me, Pires captures somewhat more of the gentle, sighing melancholy of the Adagio; she is surprisingly free with her use of pauses and rubato and seems to make the silences sing Ė yet I still love the serenity of Klienís steadier pulse. Pires is similarly free with the tempi in the Adagio of K 576 and achieves a hesitant intimacy which Klien eschews in favour a more flowing melodious quality which is more andante than adagio. Again, both approaches work so well that I do not express a preference.

ďGramophoneĒ reviews of Piresí Mozart over the years have been uniformly lukewarm; I appreciate that not everyone responds to the delicacy and grace of her interpretations and can see how more impetus and thrust might be desired but I hear no lack of tension at moments such as minor key recapitulation in the Allegro maestoso of K310.

If you do like her style, this super-bargain set in an attractive clamshell box with good notes represents a compelling buy.

Ralph Moore

This super-bargain set represents a compelling buy.

Track listing
CD1
Sonata No. 1 in C K279 [11:59]
1 I. Allegro
2 II. Andante
3 III. Allegro
Sonata No.2 in F K280 [11:11]
4 I. Allegro assai
5 II. Adagio
6 III. Presto
Sonata No.3 in B flat K281 [13:25]
7 I. Allegro
8 II. Andante amoroso
9 II. Rondeau; Allegro
Sonata No.4 in E flat K282 [13:25]
10 I. Adagio
11 II. Menuetto
12 III. Allegro
Sonata No.5 in G K283 [10:08]
13. I. Allegro
14 II. Andante
15 III. Presto

CD2
Sonata No.6 in D K284 [25:14]
1 I. Allegro
2 II. Rondeau en polonaise; Andante
3 III. Andante (Theme & Variations)
Sonata No.7 in C K309 [18:38]
4 I. Allegro con spirito
5 II. Andante un poco adagio
6 III. Rondeau; Allegretto grazioso
Sonata No.9 in A minor K310 [14:46]
7 I. Allegro maestoso
8 II. Andante cantabile con espressione
9 III. Presto
10 Rondo in D K485 [4:59]

CD3
Sonata No.8 in D K311 [15:48]
1 I. Allegro con spirito
2 II. Andante con espressione
3 III. Rondeau; Allegro
Sonata No.10 in C K330 [15:19]
4 I. Allegro moderato
5 II. Andante cantabile
6 III. Allegretto
Sonata No.11 in A K331 [25:27]
7 I. Andante grazioso
8 II. Menuetto
9 III. Alla Turca: Allegretto
10 Rondo in A minor K511

CD4
Sonata No.12 in F K332 [16:25]
1 I. Allegro
2 II. Adagio
3 III. Allegro assai
Sonata No.13 in B flat K333 [19:08]
4 I. Allegro
5 II. Andante cantabile
6 III. Allegretto grazioso
7 Fantasia in C minor K475
Sonata No.14 in C minor K457 [18:33]
8 I. Allegro molto
9 II. Adagio
10 III. Allegro assai

CD5
Sonata No.15 in F K533 & 494 [20:11]
1 I. Allegro
2 II. Andante
3 III. Rondeau; Allegretto
Sonata No.16 in C K545 [9:07]
4 I. Allegro
5 II. Andante
6 III. Rondo
Sonata No.17 in B flat K570 [15:20]
7 I. Allegro
8 II. Adagio
9 III. Allegretto
Sonata No.18 in D K576 [15:59]
10 I. Allegro
11 II. Adagio
12 III. Allegretto
13 Fantasia in D minor K397 [5:58]