Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 4
Sonata in B-flat major, K. 281
Sonata in G major, K. 283
Sonata in B-flat major, K. 333
Sonata in D major, K. 576
William Youn (piano)
rec. Studio 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich, April/May 2016
OEHMS CLASSICS OC1856 [79:10]
The current disc represents Oehms Classics’ continuing
project recording Mozart’s piano sonatas with the Korean pianist
William Youn. Previously, Youn enjoyed a span of successes in three
recordings of Mozart’s piano sonatas with the same record label.
There is a sense that the young pianist is fast establishing himself
as a bright Mozartian, and these recordings have been noted for their
In the current fourth volume of the series, two of Mozart’s most
virtuosic sonatas, the B-flat major (K. 281) and D major (K. 576) sonatas,
frame the congenial G major (K. 283) and the ambitious B-flat major
(K. 333) sonatas. By presenting the selected works in chronological
order, the trajectory of Mozart’s musical development in captured
Composed in his late teens, youthful vitality is the key word for the
B-flat major (K. 281) sonata. Characteristically, Youn’s playing
suggests an artist who is fully enjoying the occasion, without overheating
yet never sparing in control. In the G major (K. 283) sonata, too, Youn’s
approach befits the lightheartedly melodic nature of the work.
The next two works represent the longest and the last of Mozart’s
piano sonatas, respectively. While scale in itself is in no ways a determinant
of inherent musical qualities, increase of duration tends to typify
gravitas of ambition and vastness of conception. The B-flat major (K.
333) sonata certainly demonstrates this point; compared to the two previously
presented ‘pretty’ works, a leap of profundity is clearly
evident. Composed in 1783, and at a similar time to the creation of
the Linz symphony, this sonata presents a musical texture bearing a
wealth of counterpoint, adventurous harmonic progression and emotional
complexity characteristic of the maturing composer. On the other hand,
the D major (K. 576) sonata was originally written as part of what is
known as a series of “easy piano sonatas”, written for the
Emperor Joseph II’s daughter Friederike. For all its intended
charm, however, the final score of this work betrays its initial intentions,
as in fact Mozart went on to create one of the most technically challenging
works of his piano sonatas through this work.
In these two mature works, Youn’s playing continues to enchant.
The subtle and inspired playing paints the architecture of the works
without any hint of self-indulgence. I would like to concentrate on
the B-flat major (K. 333) sonata in particular, as I was impressed with
this work the most. In the first movement, where I have heard many emphasizing
the second theme by proudly announcing its entrance, Youn tastefully
blends the theme with its preceding context. Likewise, while the likes
of Pires create inter-movement contrasts by slowing down the tempo significantly
for the second movement Andante Cantabile compared to the athletic
first movement, Youn, as if to demonstrate continuity, avoids such obvious
transformation.As one might thus excpect, the third and last movement
feels as if it is cut from the same cloth as the preceding movements.
Similar traits reside in the D major (K. 576) sonata, too.
On the outside, Youn’s penchant for the avoidance of dramatically
conceived contrasts and flexibility of tempo – as are felt amply
in the cases of Barenboim’s or Arrau’s accounts –
may give an impression of stodgy objectivism. Yet Youn’s aesthetics
springs from a different well altogether. Here we have a world of natural
finesse and poise. Themes blossom out gently, effortlessly linking to
each other. In the Allegros, the music acquires an ebullience of momentous
flow. In more relaxed sections, Youn rarely fails to excavate a sense
of elegant contemplation in the score. Each note trickles and skips
around radiantly and is projected with round care – scintillating
pearls are carefully swept by a vision so personal and warm. I am sure
the sound engineering has played a significant role here – the
presence to the piano is ideally felt throughout the pieces.
If I ever miss Eschenbach’s commanding recordings from the 60s,
it is due to my thirst for clearly accented playing. I also found myself
thinking of Schiff’s more forward paced recordings with Decca.
Yet Youn’s performances with their thoughtful and gentle touch
of style are far from being turgid, and in fact are ones I will constantly
reach for. The sheer artistic integrity gives birth to a unique form
of covert intensity – indeed, ‘poetic’ may be the
best word to describe this phenomenon.
If my memory has not mislead me, Youn is set to release the final statement
of Mozart’s piano sonatas with Oehms Classics. Assuming the presence
of an artistry similar to that demonstrated in the current disc, the
completed set will unquestionable stand out as an enduring cycle attracting
both newcomers and veterans of Mozart’s piano sonata alike.