Clifford Curzon was among the finest English pianists of the twentieth century, known for his clear, ego-less performances of the German Classical and Romantic masterpieces. A quiet intellectual who nevertheless possessed a formidable technique, Curzon played everything from Mozart to Liszt with equal authority. His fans often cite this ability to emphasize the personality of each composer, rather than his own, as his most distinctive quality. Curzon recorded for the Decca label for over 30 years, leaving behind a modestly sized, but musically impressive catalog. His recordings of Mozart and Schubert are considered his best.
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.
Even though Marc-André Hamelin is world-renowned for his astonishing virtuosity and a massive repertoire of the most demanding piano works, including those of Scriabin, Godowsky, and Sorabji, he has startled many with his sudden turn toward the placid domain of Classical music. First came his critically acclaimed recordings of Franz Joseph Haydn's keyboard sonatas, which were surprise best-sellers for Hyperion, and here he offers a double-CD of the piano sonatas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a handful of short pieces to round out the discs. Since Hamelin's fine reputation precedes him, suffice it to say that these are among the most meticulously played and wittily interpreted renditions of these pieces ever recorded. Even though Mozart's sonatas are tamer than the showpieces of pianistic derring-do normally associated with Hamelin, they are endlessly fascinating for their skillfully crafted details, subtle phrases, and elegant expressions. Since the issue isn't how Hamelin manages all the notes, but instead how he shapes them into such entertaining and moving performances, there is much food for thought in this album, and anyone who attentively follows his playing will find a deeper appreciation of Mozart. Highly recommended.
Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia should have recorded all of Mozart's piano music for four hands, which includes several neglected masterpieces. This disc reflects their ideal partnership, two artists of great sensitivity collaborating in performances that feature constant interplay of parts, alertness to each other's work, and superb playing as individuals. The Concerto for Two Pianos ripples along without a care in the world, just as it should, and the English Chamber Orchestra doesn't seem to care that nobody is conducting it. The pieces without orchestra are a bit less significant (as is the Concerto for Three Pianos), but the playing is so beautiful you won't care.
The Originals Series offers listeners the opportunity to explore key albums from the Yellow Labels LP era and experience the power and passion of performances by a host of visionary artists. Now DG welcomes ten new titles to the range, including some of Karl Böhms recordings of Mozart wind concertos which have always been considered among the best. Here, the Wiener Philharmoniker principal Gunter Hogner demonstrates his skill and agility on the Viennese horn in Mozarts four horn concertos. Günter Högner plays with much character, and no-one will be disappointed with the DG issue, which is beautifully recorded and has splendid accompaniments from the WP under Böhm.