Mozart Pianists

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Cyril Ignatius
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Mozart Pianists

Post by Cyril Ignatius » Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:49 pm

I've become quite an enthusiast of Mozart's latter works for solo piano and for piano and orchestra, and would like to pick up some more recordings. Without throwing any names out on my part, I would like to solicit opinions on A) the top Mozart pianists, and B) the best recordings.

Any ideas?
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jun 04, 2007 4:23 pm

I'm a very big fan of Michiko Uchida's Mozart performances and recordings. I recommend her CDs highly.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:16 pm

Richard Goode
Murray Perahia
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Post by Opus132 » Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:18 pm

Robert Casadesus is the my favored Mozart interpreter. There's a two volume set where he does all the late piano concertos and a bunch of the sonatas and it's astonishing playing from start to finish.

Other excellent choices are Walter Klien (very unique take. He's also good as a chamber musician in the violin sonatas), Klara Wurtz (a bit over-interpreted in places but impressive in the number of details she manages to drag out of each single note) and Paul Badura (best on fortepiano that i heard so far).

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Post by Werner » Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:14 pm

There are lots of ways to look at Mozart pianists. Of living ones, the names mentioned above have great merit. Christian Zacharias is another one - there are so many more.

And by now, a couple of historic names have been mentioned. Let me put in a couple more.

Anything Mieczyslaw Horszowski did was world class, and that certainly includes Mozart. There are Horszowski recordings of Mozart in the solo and chamber repertoire. And I can't ever forget hearing him with the New York Philharmonic - way back in the Carnegie Hall days, in the B Flat Concerto, K 595, Bernstein conducting.

The program included a novelty - a very complex antiphonal work, which had evidently taken up most if not all the rehearsal time. And so the orchestral part of the concerto was not typical of the Phiharmonic - very rough. Above it all floated serenely the piano part in Horszowski's hands, above and beyond the scrappy orchestral support.

Wanda Landowska is another name. One of the great harpsichordists of all time, she played Mozart on the piano, in her own inimitable way. She recorded all the Mozart sonatas for RCA - I don't know whether they are available on CD, but they are extraordinary. Landowska was an expert in the art of baroque embellishment, and her takes on the sonatas and such concertos as she recorded - there is a live recording of the C MAjor concerto K 415, with Rodzinski and the Philharmonic that is breathtaking in the extensions and embellishments she does - never out of style.
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:15 pm

Clara Haskil and Solomon are my personal favourites.

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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:40 pm

Dilecta Teresa Nostra.

(That's Our Beloved Teresa.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by John F » Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:55 pm

The pianists whose Mozart playing has stirred me the most include Rudolf Serkin in his prime (much more daring in concert than on records), Clifford Curzon, Clara Haskil, Wilhelm Kempff, Dinu Lipatti, and maybe a few others. <grin>

My first choice of recordings would include Curzon and Benjamin Britten in the concerto $27, Lipatti and Karajan in concerto #21, Serkin and Szell in concerto #19, Kempff and Leitner in concerto #23, and I guess that'll do for starters.

In a class of his own is Robert Levin, who recorded quite a few concertos on a fortepiano with Christopher Hogwood conducting before the series was stopped short of completion. He is not just an outstanding Mozart stylist, he knows Mozart's style so well that he improvises cadenzas more or less indistinguishable from Mozart's own. (He's also known for having composed completions of several Mozart works, including the Requiem.) I'd say pick your favorite concerto and see if he's recorded it and what he does with it.
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Post by GK » Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:38 pm

Barenboim is outstanding.

One of the earliest sets of the complete concertos is by Geza Anda. It is very good.

One of the great bargains is a Seraphim duo of Annie Fischer playing concertos 20-23 with Boult (20,23) and Sawallisch (21,22).

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Post by Allen » Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:42 pm

No one has mentioned my beloved Alicia de Larrocha. :cry:

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 05, 2007 3:51 am

Allen wrote:No one has mentioned my beloved Alicia de Larrocha. :cry:
I don't think of her as a Mozart pianist. I associate her with later repertoire.

I think I should have mentioned the heroic Lili Kraus, but her band support rarely did her justice, esp. in the complete concertos set. As I recall, she had one of the earliest surveys of the complete concertos for piano by a single artist. Not really a recommendation, but more of a tip of the hat to a great artist.
Last edited by Corlyss_D on Thu Jun 07, 2007 1:08 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by John F » Tue Jun 05, 2007 4:29 am

Alicia de Larrocha was a great favorite at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival. She played Mozart concertos there summer after summer, and appeared on at least one PBS telecast of the opening night concert. That said, her Mozart playing didn't touch me as it did many others; I thought she was skilled and honest but rather featureless and impersonal. In Granados and Albeniz it was a very different story.
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Post by Teresa B » Tue Jun 05, 2007 7:17 am

jbuck919 wrote:Dilecta Teresa Nostra.

(That's Our Beloved Teresa.)
Hey, I just noticed this! Thank you for your ever-so-kind tribute, John, truly. :D

I don't have one favorite Mozart pianist, but I've enjoyed Perahia, Pires, and the Austrian pianist Buchbinder. I have a couple of De la Rocha's Mozart recordings, and I have found her renditions a little bit too careful for my taste, although they were impeccable.

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Post by Ken » Tue Jun 05, 2007 9:50 am

I agree with GK, I believe Barenboim's recordings of the later Piano Concertos to be very solid, and I also like Perahia's accounts of the Piano Sonatas.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:00 pm

John F wrote:Alicia de Larrocha was a great favorite at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival. She played Mozart concertos there summer after summer, and appeared on at least one PBS telecast of the opening night concert. That said, her Mozart playing didn't touch me as it did many others; I thought she was skilled and honest but rather featureless and impersonal. In Granados and Albeniz it was a very different story.
I know. She was a staple of the Washington edition of MMF. I still don't think of her as a Mozart pianist. Maybe because of the characteristics you note. She never moved me. But I agree with your assessment of her Granados and Albeniz.
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Post by Gregg » Wed Jun 06, 2007 11:26 am

I'd like to toss one contemporary in the mix, Lars Vogt. A very good solo collection particularly the Fantasias. I might like the collection he does in twenty years, my one criticism is that he needs a little more variety in the ways he speeds up and speeds down (if you know what I mean), but it's a minor quibble.

There is an old Backhaus LP of Mozart that was surprisingly good, but I don't know enough to generalize. Otherwise I am among the Haskil-ites, though I have plenty of Uchida and Perahia.

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Post by Chalkperson » Wed Jun 06, 2007 3:28 pm

Sonatas

Lili Kraus Complete Set M+A
Alfred Brendel's most recent Sonata Recordings on Phillips, Studio and Live
Mitsuku Uchida Live on Phillips
Andreas Staier on Fortepiano
Lise De La Salle Naive, Variations and Rondo 511
Arrau, Gilels, Curzon, Haskill, Gould, Cherkassky, Backhaus - Orfeo Live

Concertos

Moravec 14+23+25 Neville Marriner Hanssler
Annie Fischer 21+22 on EMI
Barenboim on Warners, complete set
Perahia on Sony Complete Set
Kempff 8+23+24+27 Leitner
Emil Gilels Concerti forTwo Pianos DG

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Post by Lance » Wed Jun 06, 2007 5:04 pm

Dear Cyril:

Yours is a HUGE order, indeed. There has been so much music recorded of Mozart by wonderful artists that it's extremely difficult to pick and choose. Everyone has their own favorites and reasons why they are favorites. But, based on over 50 years of listening and collecting recordings, I've assembled a listing of my own favourites. Not ALL concertos performed by the same pianist become as thrilling as certain ones of their inscriptions. Let's start with CONCERTOS, a list I may augment as I go along:

Clifford Curzon, pianist - various conductors and orchestra, and various concertos, some recorded more than once. Curzon is the consummate pianist and as time goes on, his readings are more and more considered the paradigm performances. You will find all his concertos within four budget-priced boxes on the British Decca label.

Geza Anda, pianist/conductor. All the concertos in one box is a nice way to go as long as one supplements some of the later concertos with additional recordings, i.e. Nos. 20 through 27. Anda recorded them for Deutsche Grammophon and I believe there is a specially-priced box available. Anda was a great Mozartean pianist.

Robert Casadesus, pianist - Here is another Mozart craftsman who recorded many of Mozart's concertos. I have no hesitation in recommending any that he recorded, commercially, or in live performance. His recordings were for the Columbia/Sony Classical label and few would disgree that they are first rate.

Clara Haskil, pianist - Haskil is one of the great ones and recorded a few of Mozart's concertos, commercially and in live performance. Any recording you find of her will probably be among your favorites. She recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, but other live performances are on various labels.

Solomon, pianist - Is one of the best Mozart and Beethoven pianists of his time. They are refined in every respect and leave a most favorable impression. Solomon recorded for EMI Records.

Artur Rubinstein, pianist - Rubinstein recorded Nos. 17, 20, 21, 23, and 24 in stereo. I love them all but if I had to choose but one, it would be No. 20. What style he brings to this magnificent performance. Rubinstein recorded for RCA/BMG.

Edwin Fischer, pianist - Again, one of the great Mozarteans of his day. He recorded a number of Mozart's concertos. Commercially they are on EMI, but there are other labels carrying live performances as well.

Artur Schnabel, pianist - Recorded in the days of 78s, all the Mozart concertos recorded by Schnabel have been remastered and have been available on CD on the EMI label (and others). Anything Schnabel recorded would be a must-have for serious collectors.

Rudolf Serkin, pianist - Serkin recorded many Mozart concertos and he is decidedly among the best players from his earliest recordings to his last. He recorded many for Columbia/Sony Classical and re-recorded many on Deutsche Grammophon later in his life. For me, the Columbia recordings always held a special quality, more so than the DGGs. Seek any of these and you will be a happy camper!

This list could go on and on, so I recommend these pianists as well: RICHARD GOODE (Nonesuch); Annie Fischer (EMI); Horszowski (various); Wilhelm Kempf (DGG); Walter Gieseking (EMI); Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli (EMI); Dinu Lipatti (EMI); Wanda Landowska; Leon Fleisher (a superb No. 25!); Lili Kraus (w/Simon conducting - I have only on LP and think they are wonderful. I believe they were issued on CD in Japan); Artur Balsam (Bridge); Alfred Brendel (Philips); Murray Perahia (Sony Classical) ... you may begin to see what you're up against!

Anyway, it's great fun to be checking these out. We would love to know what the outcome is in your quest!
Lance G. Hill
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Post by dirkronk » Wed Jun 06, 2007 5:18 pm

Concertos:

- Haskil and almost anyone (mostly later ctos)
- Casadesus/Szell (some middle, mostly later ctos)
- Moravec/Vlach (in 14,23,25)
- Lili Kraus/Monteux (12,18 )--Corlyss is right, alas!, about many of her other accompanists.

Others: Kempff and Annie Fischer also figure in here, though we have too little from them IMO.


Sonatas:

- Lili Kraus (I think the download copies I have are the same performances as the M&A box, but not sure; regardless, they're so satisfying)
- Eschenbach (when I want my Mozart powerful, almost Beethovenesque)
- Kocsis (when I want speedy, youthful exuberence)
- Wurtz (just got hers, and still evaluating...so far, so good)

Others: Uchida (in small doses for me, please--good indeed, but to my ear her sweetness of presentation begins to cloy after a couple of sonatas), Klien (only have one or two old LPs, not the full set), and others.

If I could pick one artist that I'd like to hear in more Mozart sonatas, it would be the extraordinary Rosita Renard; based on the lone sonata and one rondo from her 1949 Carnegie recital, I think she would have given us magic.

And of course, some other obvious choice is sure to crop up AFTER I've hit "submit."

:wink:

Dirk

P.S.: Based on how much I love Solomon in other repertoire, it's rather amazing to think I'm so unfamiliar with his Mozart. I MUST rectify this. Also, while I've long owned the early Mozart cycle by Gieseking, I've really never warmed to his interpretations; some are superb, but some just seem like unenthusiastic run-throughs.

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Post by anasazi » Thu Jun 07, 2007 2:23 am

I will limit this to living pianists, just mostly because I have not heard all of the greats yet. So Murray Perrahia pretty much I think. I would love to listen to have a recording by him of the sonatas, his conertos CDs are really a lot of fun. I like the Klara Wurtz CDs of the sontas at the moment.
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Post by CharmNewton » Thu Jun 07, 2007 8:48 pm

Werner wrote:Wanda Landowska is another name. One of the great harpsichordists of all time, she played Mozart on the piano, in her own inimitable way. She recorded all the Mozart sonatas for RCA - I don't know whether they are available on CD, but they are extraordinary. Landowska was an expert in the art of baroque embellishment, and her takes on the sonatas and such concertos as she recorded - there is a live recording of the C Major concerto K 415, with Rodzinski and the Philharmonic that is breathtaking in the extensions and embellishments she does - never out of style.
Werner, I don't believe she recorded all of the sonatas for RCA. I have a 4-LP French RCA set of her late Mozart and Haydn recordings, and I've seen these in domestic editions as well (one 2-LP set each for Mozart and Haydn). As far as I know, they've not been issued on CD, at least in the U.S. It would be great if she did them all, though. I really like her as a pianist (her harpsichord recordings can sound a bit hard and brittle to me) and wish she made more recordings on the instrument.

She did record the Mozart Coronation Concerto for EMI in the 1930s, once available in a fine transfer on a Seraphim LP.

John

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Post by Cyril Ignatius » Fri Jun 08, 2007 7:37 pm

Having started this thread, I can say the feedback, commentaries and recommendations have been enormously helpful, and I will take this advice carefully as I pick up additional recordings.

Up to this point, I have listened heavily to the Alfred Brendel recordings of the sonatas, Rudolf Serkin's #21 and 27, Richard Goode's recording of # 22 and 23, de Larocha's 24 and 26, among others.

It's good to see Brendel get a recommendation from Chalkperson - I had assumed Brendel was among the very cream of the crop from what I've read about him. I still plan to pick up his third CD in the sonata series on the Philips label.

It's nice to see Alicia de Larocha recommended, although in a couple cases it was suggested she wasn't really a Mozart specialist. I've also enjoyed her "Mostly Mozart" 5 LP series, and assumed she was one of the great Mozart enterpreters.

And I plan to pick up the Geza Anda recording of the concertos on the DGG label as Lance recommended, I already have # 18 and 20 iin LP form in that series.

Artur Rubinstein sounds like a very good choice; talk about an amazing pianist. His Chopin Nocturnes and Beethoven Concertos 3-4 have been among my preferred recordings.

I'd like to check out the Clifford Curzon recordings; I know his Brahms number 1 is fabulous.

One less-known recording I listen to on occasion is the in concert performance of Constantin Lifschitz containing a mixture of Mozart and Schubert.


:)
Cyril Ignatius

val
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Re: Mozart Pianists

Post by val » Sat Jun 09, 2007 2:59 am

Cyril Ignatius

A) the top Mozart pianists, and B) the best recordings.

To me, on top, Rudolf Serkin, with his recordings of the 10 (with his son Peter), 12 and 17, conducted by Schneider, and 19, 20, 27 (Szell and Ormandy).

Then Perahia, with the complete Concertos (with the English Chamber Orchestra), in special the 5, 6, 13, 15, 16, 18, 23, 25.

Clara Haskil in the 19 and 27 (Fricsay) and 20 and 24 (Markevitch).

Vladimir Ashkenazy in the 8 and 9 (Kertesz) and the 20 (Isserstedt).

Annie Fischer in the 21 and 22 (Sawallisch).

Geza Anda in the 11, 14, 21, 23 (Mozarteum Salzburg).

Robert Casadesus (Szell) in the 23 and 26.

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Post by Holden Fourth » Sat Jun 23, 2007 4:55 am

A while ago I purchased a Regis disc entitled '8 Favourite Mozart Sonatas' played by Klara Wurtz. Having heard a number of pianists in the sonatas including Uchida, Perahia etc I'd come to the conclusion that the Mozart PS were an ouevre where I didn't need to get a complete set. This CD changed my thinking and I purchased the complete edition by Wurtz yesterday.

To me this is revelatory music making. The sonatas come out as fresh and almost reinvented. Wurtz avoids oversentimentality and that sense of 'salon room prissiness' that we often get with interpretations of these works. I can't recommend this set highly enough. I've heard a few of Zacharias' sonatas to realise that they are also worth considering. Now to talk to my good mate Dirk regarding the Wurtz set.

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Post by Lance » Sat Jun 23, 2007 11:50 pm

For me, some of the finest Mozart players include the following artists in the concerted works: Edwin Fischer, Artur Schnabel, Wilhelm Kempff, Robert Casadesus, Artur Rubinstein (particularly Concerto #20), Clifford Curzon (anything), Rudolf Serkin, Clara Haskil (anything), Annie Fischer, Artur Balsam (a genuine "classical" approach), Richard Goode, Ivan Moravec, Lili Kraus, Geza Anda (especially in his complete concerto edition/DGG if complete is your bag), Vladimir Ashkenazy (in the first six concertos), Robert Levin (fortepianist), Solomon (anything).

While there are many others in the concertos, I think most would agree, that all these pianists, considered among the best in the world, didn't get there for no reason at all. Anything of Mozart recorded by Dinu Lipatti is a must, and several concertos were beautifully rendered by Michelangeli, and Sviatoslav Richter (I'm thinking of the latter's Teldec recordings primarily). I havee not been a Barenboim fan and, hard as I try, I am unconvinced by his playing of either the concertos or solo works. I have heard but not sought the Perahia recordings. I'm not exactly sure why I have not clamoured to get his - can't put my finger on it either.

As for the sonatas and varitions for piano solo, two that you might expect to be at the top of the list are far from it IMHO. These include Walter Gieseking and Glenn Gould, both artists I place on a pedestal normally. Gieseking's sounds as though they were quickly prepared for his "complete" recording while Gould's is so far from the mark in Mozart that I'm sure Mozart would turn over in his grave if he hasn't already. (Gould always said, why record if it's going to sound like everybody else.)

Walter Klien is a great Viennese Mozartean - in concertos and in his solo piano music recordings, all for Vox Productions. I hold a special place for Alicia de Larrocha's RCA Victor recordings (recently issued in a budget-priced box), despite so many negative comments about her work in this repertoire. She was an incredibly amazing and impeccable pianist. I have also cherished Lili Kraus's Columbia/Sony recordings of the sonatas if one is going for integral editions. A pianist who is not mentioned on the board in Mozart is Friedrich Gulda, whose solo Mozart is also well interpreted and performed, rather introspective playing at its best. Also, Carl Seemann, whose work for DGG is all but forgotten, but has been resurrected by DGG in a budge-box a while back and is worth considering (as is any concerto work he has done). I have all of Uchida's Mozart on Philips, which could end up being one of the most coveted as the years go on. Claudio Arrau is a pianist I am not crazy about but on Philips he preserved some of the finest Mozart playing I have heard. And don't forget about Alfred Brendel, always the epitome of a great Mozartean. I particularly love his earliest recordings of Mozart. DGG also has Wilhelm Kempff and Maria Joao Pires, who have recorded some solo Mozart that I thought to be well worth having in one's collection.

With a name like MOZART, one has an almost unlimited choice of some of the best performing artists in the world. Have fun assembling your collection!
Lance G. Hill
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Post by John F » Sun Jun 24, 2007 10:35 am

Lance wrote:Gould's is so far from the mark in Mozart that I'm sure Mozart would turn over in his grave if he hasn't already. (Gould always said, why record if it's going to sound like everybody else.)
Gould once admitted to having "a century-long blind spot approximately demarcated by The Art of the Fugue on one side and Tristan on the other--everything in between is at best an occasion for admiration rather than love." His long interview with Bruno Monsaingeon in "The Glenn Gould Reader," however, reveals no admiration for Mozart but rather something like contempt.

The best he can say for Mozart's piano sonatas is that "the actual process of playing them...was always very enjoyable. I had a lot of fun running my fingers up and down the keys, exploiting all those scales and arpeggios." And that "the first half-dozen sonatas, which have those Baroque virtues [of purity of voice leading and calculation of register], are the best of the lot." He felt that Mozart didn't die too early, but too late. And yet he astonished his producer at Columbia Records by asking to record all the Mozart sonatas, not just the first half-dozen. And he played much of the music in a singularly perverse way.

Why? He doesn't explain this in the interview, so it's left to us to guess. My guess is that that he wanted to demonstrate that the music isn't very good--to play it in such a way as to show it up. In effect, he is not seeking to interpret the music so much as to criticize it. So he is free to do whatever he likes, to ignore tempo marks, dynamics, phrasing--even the actual notes.

In the Turkish sonata he plays the opening variations at a steadily increasing tempo, so that when Mozart wants the next-to-last variation to be slow, Gould plays it very fast, For one thing, this conforms to his own quite arbitrary interpretation of the movement; for another, it quite eliminates the sense of pathos that Mozart clearly had in mind--and that the whole shape of the theme itself is based on. Gould has no use for emotion in music, so where he finds it he ignores or tramples it.

Whatever the virtues of his Bach and Schoenberg, then--and I find them quite resistable because for me they lack emotional expressivity--at least they connect with an essential element of the music involved, its emphasis on horizontal, contrapuntal movement. The records of music in between, however, often strike me as more like sophisticated practical jokes, on the music and on me.
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Post by Werner » Sun Jun 24, 2007 10:50 am

I note your comments about Gieseking and Gould, Lance. Of course you know how I feel about the Gould recordings. So if you don't want to sound like everybody else, must you demonstrate your contempt for the pieces by what you did to them? Well, never mind, what's done is done.

Gieseking is another story. There were not as many alternatives available when he recorded his cycle, and I imagine that as performance practices evolved, his take on Mozart had more admirers then than now.

It was early in my collecting days that I encountered Gieseking. (I've just checked - I have several of the sonatas, not the complete cycle.) Along the way, I became especially fond of the B Flat sonata, K 570 - to the extent that I studied it and eventually included it in the only recording project of my life. I took me a long time - don't remember just how long - to come to my own view of the piece, and Gieseking remained my model - not as an object of imitation but a stimulus. Of course, it would be impossible for an amateur like me to reach the pianistic standards of a Gieseking, but what surprised me was the very different concept that years of study produced.
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Post by Lance » Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:06 pm

Werner wrote:I note your comments about Gieseking and Gould, Lance. Of course you know how I feel about the Gould recordings. So if you don't want to sound like everybody else, must you demonstrate your contempt for the pieces by what you did to them? Well, never mind, what's done is done.

Gieseking is another story. There were not as many alternatives available when he recorded his cycle, and I imagine that as performance practices evolved, his take on Mozart had more admirers then than now.

It was early in my collecting days that I encountered Gieseking. (I've just checked - I have several of the sonatas, not the complete cycle.) Along the way, I became especially fond of the B Flat sonata, K 570 - to the extent that I studied it and eventually included it in the only recording project of my life. I took me a long time - don't remember just how long - to come to my own view of the piece, and Gieseking remained my model - not as an object of imitation but a stimulus. Of course, it would be impossible for an amateur like me to reach the pianistic standards of a Gieseking, but what surprised me was the very different concept that years of study produced.
Hi Werner: As you know, I am a great fan of Glenn Gould AND Walter Gieseking, having just about everything they ever recorded in my collection, comercially and privately. After having admired Gieseking Mozart concertos for years (and still do), it was just diappointing to hear his solo Mozart piano recordings. In some cases, however, there were a few Gieseking Mozart solos that I held in very high esteem (a Fantasy and Fugue in particular), but overall, Gieseking was just musically disappointing. I also admire Gould in most everything he has done, especially his Bach. You either like him or you don't ... but he brought Bach to new dimensions on the piano for me. In contrast, his Mozart solo recordings did not have the same effect. Just why he would commit his otherwise extraordinary art to posterity with his Mozart asks a lot of questions - and especially to record all the sonatas. Peter Serkin, in his never-available-RCA LP recordings seemed to be following in the footsteps of Gould with regard to Mozart. "Why record it if it's going to sound like everyone else?" If that's the only criteria for making the recording, to be different from everyone else, it seems pointless, especially if the interpretations are so anti-composer-and-period practices. Nonetheless, it is still very interesting to hear these unorthodox performances from time to time, to keep the ears fresh and appreciative of other great performances. My admiration for Gieseking and Gould—the two "Gs," remains undaunted nonetheless!
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Post by Donald Isler » Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:57 pm

John F wrote about Gould:

"His long interview with Bruno Monsaingeon in 'The Glenn Gould Reader,' however, reveals no admiration for Mozart but rather something like contempt....................................................................He felt that Mozart died not too early, but too late."


Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......................!

I've rarely had the desire to play God, but, knowing that Gould had 50 years and Mozart only 35, if it were up to me...............!
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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 24, 2007 1:12 pm

I've been watching this thread bumped to the top for days now, and frankly, I've lost patience. Did it ever occur to anyone that Mozart is not a sufficiently virtuoso composer for the piano to warrant this kind of controversy? I can play pretty much anything he wrote, I assume Donald can and Werner could, and Teresa or Agnes' daughter has. And every single performance by any of us would satisfy any discerning listener. For modern virutoso pianists, he is sight reading material and any recording is a situation of convenience. It's just not that big a deal.

On top of that is the fact that the pianos of his time sounded like something from the parlor of the local YMCA (it's a miracle that he was a serious piano composer at all). Is there a measure of masterpieces in there? Of course, it goes without saying, but honestly, to debate recorded performances until the cows come home.... :roll:

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Post by Werner » Sun Jun 24, 2007 1:42 pm

I think you've left something out, John, and that's the crux of the matter.
Sight-reading is one thing, and anyone good at that can breeze through the Mozart sonatas. But exploring the depth of the substance that does exist beyond the surface, and bringing one's own personality to bear on it - that's where the differences show. There is good reason for Artur Schnabel's quote (and I paraphrase) that Mozart is easy for children but difficult for adults.
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Post by pizza » Sun Jun 24, 2007 1:51 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I've been watching this thread bumped to the top for days now, and frankly, I've lost patience. Did it ever occur to anyone that Mozart is not a sufficiently virtuoso composer for the piano to warrant this kind of controversy?
Was there a controversy until your post?

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Post by John F » Sun Jun 24, 2007 3:00 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Did it ever occur to anyone that Mozart is not a sufficiently virtuoso composer for the piano to warrant this kind of controversy? I can play pretty much anything he wrote, I assume Donald can and Werner could, and Teresa or Agnes' daughter has. And every single performance by any of us would satisfy any discerning listener. For modern virutoso pianists, he is sight reading material and any recording is a situation of convenience. It's just not that big a deal.
Artur Schnabel wrote:The sonatas of Mozart are unique: too easy for children, too difficult for adults. Children are given Mozart to play because of the quantity of notes; grown ups avoid him because of the quality of notes.
So who do you think has got it right?
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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 24, 2007 3:04 pm

John F wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:Did it ever occur to anyone that Mozart is not a sufficiently virtuoso composer for the piano to warrant this kind of controversy? I can play pretty much anything he wrote, I assume Donald can and Werner could, and Teresa or Agnes' daughter has. And every single performance by any of us would satisfy any discerning listener. For modern virutoso pianists, he is sight reading material and any recording is a situation of convenience. It's just not that big a deal.
Artur Schnabel wrote:The sonatas of Mozart are unique: too easy for children, too difficult for adults. Children are given Mozart to play because of the quantity of notes; grown ups avoid him because of the quality of notes.
So who do you think has got it right?
Don't be such a fool as to think that I would out of hand second-guess a giant like Schnabel. I didn't know that quote, but I would also not disdain to ask him quite what he meant. He made his career on composers of true difficulty, you know.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by Lance » Sun Jun 24, 2007 3:14 pm

John, John ... this is a "discussion," just what this forum is about. Mozart was a genius, even in his solo piano works. He set a precedent for those that followed as Haydn before and during him ... he took it one step further which led to the masterful Beethoven. Do you have any admiration for Haydn's solo piano works? There exists many more sonatas in number than even Mozart (this is about quality not quantity please remember), and they are considered by those great scholars who play this stuff (Brendel, Schiff, Richter, and countless others) who held and continue to hold Mozart's solo piano works in the highest esteem.
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Post by Chalkperson » Sun Jun 24, 2007 3:45 pm

jbuck919 wrote: but honestly, to debate recorded performances until the cows come home.... :roll:
Unfortunately John, some of us have to listen to a recording to 'hear' the music, not all of us can play it in our head, or from reading a score, and i'm sorry but I learn a lot from everyones postings, sometimes even yours... :wink:

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Post by John F » Sun Jun 24, 2007 4:17 pm

Maybe this from "My Life and Music" will help:
Artur Schnabel wrote:I feel that unless a piece of music presents a problem to me, a never-ending problem, it doesn't interest me too much. For instance, Chopin's studies are lovely pieces, perfect pieces, but I simply can't spend time on them. I believe I know these pieces; but playing a Mozart sonata, I am not so sure that I do know it inside and out. Therefore I can spend endless time on it.

This can probably only be understood by one who has had the same experience. Many colleagues of mine would laugh at me. They would say: "What is the problem? I don't see any problem." Here we come to the absolutely uninvestigable field of quality--the demarcation line between quality and quantity, essence and appearance.

Once I was asked by somebody: "How is it that you speak with such reverence and awe of Mozart's profundity?" It was the wife of a star virtuoso to whom I once spoke in almost exaggerated terms of the depth of Mozart's music, the unfathomable transcendental qualities. She said: "We too love Mozart, but we think his music is just sweet and lovely and graceful. If your valuation," she continued, "is the right one, Mr. Schnabel, how do you explain the fact that all children play Mozart so well?"

I answered: "Well, children have at least one very important element in common with Mozart, namely purity. They are not yet spoiled and prejudiced and personally involved. But these are, of course, not the reason why their teachers give them Mozart to play. Children are given Mozart because of the small quantity of the notes; grown-ups avoid Mozart because of the great quality of the notes--which, to be true, is elusive!"
This makes perfect sense to me. I'm not a musician myself, but it seems to me that virtuosity amounts to a great deal more than Fingerfertigkeit. If it didn't, then I don't see why great virtuosos from Beethoven to Busoni to Rubinstein would bother with Mozart at all. But of course they did. Indeed Busoni, composer of one of the great knuckle-busting piano concertos of all time, played 11 Mozart concertos, taking up 8 of them in 1918-21 toward the end of his life. And I doubt very much that he sight-read them.

I also think that virtuosity as such, thrilling as it may be, doesn't lend itself to extended discussion. What really is there to say? While styles and choices of interpretation in any music are much more profitable to talk about, in depth and if necessary at length. In Mozart as much as any other composer, and perhaps more than most.

Years ago in CompuServe's Music Forum, the pianist Jeffrey Kahane (a superb Mozartean who could also dash off Prokofiev 3 with aplomb) and I discussed the interpretation of Mozart's Concerto #21, just the middle "Elvira Madigan" movement, in countless messages across nearly two weeks, ranging from technical aspects such as the effect of the fairly recently discovered alla breve marking to the emotional character of the music. According to your complaint earlier today, it appears we can only have been wasting our time. But maybe Schnabel wouldn't have thought so.
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Post by Holden Fourth » Sun Jun 24, 2007 5:29 pm

John F wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:Did it ever occur to anyone that Mozart is not a sufficiently virtuoso composer for the piano to warrant this kind of controversy? I can play pretty much anything he wrote, I assume Donald can and Werner could, and Teresa or Agnes' daughter has. And every single performance by any of us would satisfy any discerning listener. For modern virutoso pianists, he is sight reading material and any recording is a situation of convenience. It's just not that big a deal.
Artur Schnabel wrote:The sonatas of Mozart are unique: too easy for children, too difficult for adults. Children are given Mozart to play because of the quantity of notes; grown ups avoid him because of the quality of notes.
So who do you think has got it right?
Richter also had similar feelings and said something along the lines of "I'll never be able to play him well, I don't understand him" so that makes two keyboard giants who concur on this.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 24, 2007 7:23 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
jbuck919 wrote: but honestly, to debate recorded performances until the cows come home.... :roll:
Unfortunately John, some of us have to listen to a recording to 'hear' the music, not all of us can play it in our head, or from reading a score, and i'm sorry but I learn a lot from everyones postings, sometimes even yours... :wink:
That was not the point, Chalkie. Of course most people are going to need recordings. The point is that an endless debate on comparative quality of performances with regard to Mozart makes no sense. Pick one, and as Albert Einstein said about his two favorite composers (the other was Bach), shut up and listen. (It makes much less sense for Bach.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Chalkperson » Sun Jun 24, 2007 7:59 pm

jbuck919 wrote:That was not the point, Chalkie. Of course most people are going to need recordings. The point is that an endless debate on comparative quality of performances with regard to Mozart makes no sense. Pick one, and as Albert Einstein said about his two favorite composers (the other was Bach), shut up and listen. (It makes much less sense for Bach.)
I listened to Mozart for years, and then stopped for quite a while, he may be less important for the reasons you suggest, but I keep going back and listening to any or all of it again, the reason in fact, was because, like you, I had bought new speakers and they made everything sound different, and much better, given that chance I went back to Mozart and listened to hundreds of recordings over the course of a year and a half, I think one interesting way to deal with repeated listening (other than buying discs by unknown composers on cpo) is to keep switching around the dates of the recordings, thirties, forties, sixties, turn of the century, twenties etc in fact I just spent a month listening to vocalists from the earliest era of recordings, Amelita Calli Curci, Rosa Poncelle, Lucrizia Bori, Pol Placon etc...and I listen to every type of music right across the board, right now i'm having a Mahler vs Ligeti weekend...Gyorgy's holding his own, and of course it affords me the oppertunity to watch 2001 again, in fact Lance mentioned a Mozart pianist today that I had never heard of, and that's rare, called Carl Seeman, this gives me an opertunity to listen to the oevre yet again, and they just released a VoxBox from Walter Klein of the Complete Variations and odds and ends...without discussion all us non playing collectors would not know what to look for next...we need our fix, bad, really we do...and unlike you can't do it in our heads... :shock:

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jun 25, 2007 2:49 am

John F wrote: Years ago in CompuServe's Music Forum,
Cripes! I think Lance was there before Ward asked him to join the staff of the old MSN Classical Music Forum. Did you know him from there?
ranging from technical aspects such as the effect of the fairly recently discovered alla breve marking to the emotional character of the music.
What was the effect? Will it rescue that abused composition from wedding ceremonies?
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Post by John F » Mon Jun 25, 2007 4:42 am

Holden Fourth wrote:Richter also had similar feelings and said something along the lines of "I'll never be able to play him well, I don't understand him"
A number of great musicians somehow didn't "get it" about Mozart, and some were humble enough to confess it. Toscanini was another. He repeatedly praised Bruno Walter's Mozart performances as better than his own (with which I definitely agree), and once said to a colleague that in "Le Nozze di Figaro" "there's something that I don't understand, that I'm not able to find, and that I miss," and in comparison praised "Il Barbiere di Siviglia": "How much sun, how much variety and how much real cheerfulness there is in that music!" No comment.
Corlyss_D wrote:I think Lance was there before Ward asked him to join the staff of the old MSN Classical Music Forum. Did you know him from there?
I joined CompuServe's Music Forum in 1985 and many have come and gone since then, but I don't remember that Lance was one of them, and he showed no sign of recognizing me when I popped my head in here. But maybe he was there nonetheless.
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Post by John F » Mon Jun 25, 2007 5:38 am

John F wrote:ranging from technical aspects such as the effect of the fairly recently discovered alla breve marking to the emotional character of the music.
Corlyss_D wrote:What was the effect? Will it rescue that abused composition from wedding ceremonies?
In most editions of K.467, including the old Gesamtausgabe, the andante is marked C for common time or 4/4. But this is a mistake, as Mozart's autograph clearly carries the marking of C with a vertical stroke for cut time, meaning alla breve or 2/4. This affects the rhythm of the music, and is one reason why Jeffrey Kahane and other pianists nowadays play it rather faster than in most recordings made while all the editions carried the 4/4 marking. I felt that the older pianists, whatever edition they were using, had the right (slower) tempo for the character of the music.
Jeffrey Kahane wrote:What alla breve means to me, fundamentally, is that the half bar is the unit on which the phrasing is based, harmonically and/or melodically, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the case with that tune, whose exquisite structure is entirely based not on quarter notes but on half notes. In other words, if I feel, as I do, that the overarching rhythmic impulse is on the half-bar, then a tempo of, say, 60 to the quarter, which I would guess would be more to your taste, seems to me a bit distended and earthbound. My tempo, I'm guessing for lack of a metronome, is somewhere around 70 to the quarter, but I feel it rather as 35 to the half note, which doesn't feel fast to me in the least, on the contary: this is an extremely slow pulse. Furthermore, at 60 to the quarter, the triplets (and the quarter note pizzicati) become, to my ears, heavy and over-emphasized, rather than a gentle throbbing murmur in the background. And the melody becomes strained or cloying instead of long-breathed and ecstatic.
I had written to him previously in an e-mail, but quoted myself in Music Forum:
John Francis wrote:I think the difference in our feelings about how the music ought to go may lie in your reference to the melody as not only expressive but "appassionato." That's a word I would never use about this movement, with the word's implications of urgency, even perhaps turbulence. What words would I use? Something like "linked sweetness long drawn out" (thanks, Milton)--and the longer drawn out, the better, within reasonable limits of course. I don't want the movement/moment to go past any more quickly than it absolutely must; I want time to savor its sweetness laced with melancholy bitterness, as in the wonderful descending strings and winds in bars 12-17. Or to put it another way (and to borrow from another poet), the mood I sense in the music and want to experience in a performance of it is something like that of Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale." It may well, as you say, be an expression of love--I think so too--or it may have some other extramusical significance, but whatever it's about, I hear it as a reverie.
The discussion thus took up the question of whether the player's understanding of the music's character depends on the choice of tempo, which may be made for other reasons such as the meaning of "andante" and "alla breve" today and/or in Mozart's time, or whether the choice of tempo should depend on the player's individual, as-of-now view of the character of the music. Jeff said:
Jeffrey Kahane wrote:Any of my students will tell you that the first and foremost thing I stress is the essential character of the music. I'm far more interested in the psychological, emotional, spiritual character of a piece of music than I am in any of its specific technical aspects. In fact, I don't even think of such things as psychology and emotion as "extramusical", really. And I absolutely feel, when I interpret that piece, that my primary intent is to convey its atmosphere, its emotional gamut, its psychological characters. How exactly one does that is something almost impossible to put into words. I can only tell you that, I suppose like an actor, I make every effort to identify completely with the essential character of the piece as I understand and feel it: to become it, in a sense.

In other words, I don't characterize the music as a "result of purely musical grounds on such interpretive matters as tempo" because the two things are inextricably bound up with one another: I feel the alla breve marking as an indication of the psychological/emotional atmosphere of the piece, and I also feel the atmosphere is heightened and enhanced by the more flowing tempo. When I listen to Lipatti, what I hear is beautiful, but it's not the character of piece I hear when I look at the score. The music sounds less ecstatic, less ardent, less heavenly than it does in other performances. It doesn't only sound not alla breve, it sounds not in keeping with my emotional/psychological/spiritual, and above all physical experience of the music.

Is it possible to construe the character of a piece independently of the tempo marking? Of course - we do it in Bach all the time, when there are no tempo markings many times. But in the case of Mozart, where the tempo/meter relationships are so expressive of subtle differences in psychological and emotional qualities, why should I attempt to construe the character without regard to the tempo/meter mark when what it suggests feels so utterly natural and right to me? As I said, to take only one small detail, at a slower tempo, the murmur or throb of the triplets ceases to sound like a murmur or a throb to me, and becomes something else, something too real, too earthbound, too heavy and glutinous, not diaphanous. And the melody, instead of feeling transfigured and ecstatic and radiant (all of which and any other words I could come up with put together don't begin to do justice to the actual experience of the melody!), sounds somehow too languorous, even a bit narcissistic perhaps.

The quality of Eros which is perhaps unique to this among Mozart's slow movements in the concerti (certainly none of the others I can think of distill it in this way) just isn't there for me when the music is played too slowly. And, obviously, it (or whatever you feel is most important about the music's character) isn't there for you at a faster tempo, and perhaps never the twain shall meet...

In any event, I don't know if I could possibly begin to really answer your question about just how I go about translating my understanding of musical character into sound. I don't know, really, how I do it, except to feel the music as deeply as I can, and shape the sound with feeling and conviction. All the rest is really in one sense incidental, but that's not to say that reading the score closely, and attempting to get to the heart of what Mozart's markings are attempting to convey (and they certainly convey something!), isn't an important part of the process. And I stress that perhaps we differ fundamentally in that for me metric stress and phrasing and articulation and sonority are all so profoundly affected by tempo, and vice-versa, that I find it nearly impossible to think about them independently.
And so it went. I see that my file of the thread is 187K large, and this is just a tiny sample, but maybe it'll do for now. <grin>

And if anybody feels that this is carrying on too long about music which is actually dead simple to play, well, they don't have to read it, do they?
Last edited by John F on Mon Jun 25, 2007 5:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by anasazi » Sat Jun 30, 2007 2:19 am

Holden Fourth wrote:A while ago I purchased a Regis disc entitled '8 Favourite Mozart Sonatas' played by Klara Wurtz. Having heard a number of pianists in the sonatas including Uchida, Perahia etc I'd come to the conclusion that the Mozart PS were an ouevre where I didn't need to get a complete set. This CD changed my thinking and I purchased the complete edition by Wurtz yesterday.

To me this is revelatory music making. The sonatas come out as fresh and almost reinvented. Wurtz avoids oversentimentality and that sense of 'salon room prissiness' that we often get with interpretations of these works. I can't recommend this set highly enough. I've heard a few of Zacharias' sonatas to realise that they are also worth considering. Now to talk to my good mate Dirk regarding the Wurtz set.
I quite agree. I just purchased the Wurtz set of sonatas recently too, and it has opened a new door for me to the Mozart sonatas.

For the concertos, I don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said. I don't have a boxed set for those, but I do have a lot of Perahia and some Serkin. Actually Arthur Rubinstein was an excellent Mozartean and I still enjoy some of his recordings, especially of #20 in d minor.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 30, 2007 2:31 am

John F wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:What was the effect? Will it rescue that abused composition from wedding ceremonies?
In most editions of K.467, including the old Gesamtausgabe, the andante is marked C for common time or 4/4. But this is a mistake, as Mozart's autograph clearly carries the marking of C with a vertical stroke for cut time, meaning alla breve or 2/4. This affects the rhythm of the music, and is one reason why Jeffrey Kahane and other pianists nowadays play it rather faster than in most recordings made while all the editions carried the 4/4 marking. I felt that the older pianists, whatever edition they were using, had the right (slower) tempo for the character of the music.
Mmmm. Damn research spoils another great tune. Recalls the shock I experienced upon hearing the largo of the Vivaldi d minor oboe concerto played so beautifully by Harold Gomberg on the Bernstein disc at the correct tempo. All I could do was swallow the contradiction of an EM fanatic preferring the admittedly more romantic tempo of the Bernstein.
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