While its unpretentious cover photo and small text don't proclaim it as an important recording, Noriko Ogawa's 2012 SACD of Mozart piano sonatas is the kind of sleeper album that quietly asserts its value and convinces purely through the beauty of the music. The three piano sonatas presented here also have that kind of unassuming quality. Mozart composed them as teaching pieces, suitable for players of modest skills, yet they have become extremely popular and rank among his best loved works. Ogawa plays them with a light touch that suits their simplicity, and her interpretations of K. 330, K. 331 (famous for its Rondo alla Turca), and K. 332 are transparent and almost naïve, but for the subtlety of attack, balanced phrasing, and shaded dynamics that reveal her artistry. BIS provides nearly ideal sound quality for Ogawa, offering clean reproduction and reasonably close microphone placement that make listening effortless.
Sonatas 7 - 12, composed between 1777 and about 1783, mark a significant evolution with respect to the preceding ones: Mozart’s expressive world now takes on many new facets, and in Sonata K 310 it reaches dramatic depths of unprecedented intensity and sombreness. In the other sonatas, too, although seemingly “lighter”, we find an infinity of expressive approaches that had never previously appeared with such naturalness and variety of inflections. However, Mozart always succeeds in maintaining an admirable balance between seriousness and facetiousness, between playfulness and drama, with constant originality in his management of form.
I heard many great performances of Mozart's Piano Sonatas including: Uchida, Arrau, Wurtz, Eschenbach, Horowitz, and Kempff to name few. But Gulda's tone and interpretation is exceptionally unique, he plays Mozart with full involvement, dedication, passion and inspiration I've never heard from any other player. Those tapes shed the light on a great artist at his most intimate moment of work, as those tapes were supposed to be personal and not intended for public, and hence the sound quality is not top notch but it's worth it considering the legendary performance.