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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 5
Sonata in D major, K. 284
Sonata in C major, K. 309
Fantasia in C minor, K. 475
Sonata in C minor, K. 457
William Youn (piano)
rec. 2016, Studio 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich

The Oehms Classics label seems to have flourished since its founding in 2003. Its catalogue features a predominance of Austro-German composers and artists and this fifth and final issue in William Youn’s traversal of the Mozart’s piano sonatas, which has garnered praise for its poetic sensibility and unaffected virtuosity, is typical of its quality and remit.

Previous reviewers have commented on the essential rightness of Youn’s playing (see review of Volume 4); there is never anything self-consciously showy or self-regarding in his style. He reminds me most of my favourite exponent of Mozart’s sonatas, Walter Klien, whose 1964 recordings still lead the field for me. If there is any caveat to be issued here, it is that the gentleness and fluency of Youn’s interpretations avoid the somewhat more percussive, accented articulation and the greater personality which Klien brings to the faster movements, and which help underline their wit and joie de vivre. Youn’s relative restraint is most apparent in K 309; nonetheless, there is no questioning his mastery of trilling ornamentation, the pearlescence of his runs or the subtlety of his dynamic gradations. Another factor in deciding whether to acquire Youn’s versions is that he includes all the repeats in the first movements, whereas Klien does not.

The opening allegro of No. 6, K 284 is shot through with bold, brilliant touches but then Youn reins in his exuberance to embrace the stately, old-fashioned dignity of the Polonaise. The finale consists of the dreaded variations but Youn confers a distinct character upon each of them. K 475 is one of Mozart’s masterpieces. Its music is for the most part far removed from the pyrotechnic display we most readily associate with Fantasies, its chromatic slipperiness being poignant, quizzical and darkly disturbing by turns. Youn brings weight and poetic imagination to his delivery but only in the last three minutes, which are suffused with the kind of Sturm und Drang we associate with middle-period Beethoven, does he cut loose. K 457 shares the same qualities – indeed the fact that Mozart published the two works together suggests their kinship; of special note is the delicate, singing quality of his tone in the Adagio.

This last issue in Youn’s survey of the complete Mozart sonatas puts the seal on a highly desirable set in exemplary sound.

Ralph Moore



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