Piano Sonata no.1 in C major, KV 279/189d
Piano Sonata no.2 in F major, KV 280/189e
Piano Sonata no.3 in B-flat major, KV 281/189f
Fantasia in C minor, KV 475
Piano Sonata no.14 in C minor, KV 457
The Wigmore Hall’s Mozart Odyssey continued with four piano sonatas and a fantasia from Francesco Piemontesi. Piemontesi is a thoughtful artist; even when his way would not be mine, there can be no doubting the integrity of his performance. And so it proved here; although I had my doubts concerning aspects of the earlier sonatas, especially his insistence, at times, on playing them in a fashion more ‘Baroque’ than ‘Classical’ – umbrella stylistic terms that throw up more questions than they answer – Piemontesi offered his own performative justifications.
|First edition of the C minor Fantasia (Artaria), closing bars|
In the second half, we heard the great C minor Sonata, preceded, as it often is, by the Fantasia, here without a break – and indeed, without the final bars of the Fantasia (rather a good way of doing it, if one must). Piemontesi’s long-term harmonic ear (Furtwängler’s Fernhören) really came into its own here, the possibilities of the opening phrases almost audible at the outset. His legato touch, anything but unvariegated, helped with that too, of course. There was no doubting that this was music of quite another order when it came to emotional and intellectual weight. Mozart’s tour of the tonal horizons truly enthralled – and it all sounded, as great Mozart playing does, so easy! The first movement of the Sonata following on as it did registered as some kind of release in context, although the chiaroscuro afforded by the E-flat major of the second subject asserted different tonal priorities. Wisely, Piemontesi took the first but not the second repeat, the turn to the tonic minor in the recapitulation properly heartbreaking. And so, the music subsided. (Applause suggested some thought that the end of the Fantasia!) The slow movement, one of Mozart’s very greatest, emerged both as great instrumental scena and as something that could only ever have been conceived for, let alone realised by, the piano. Again, line and integration were beyond reproach; above all, they were felt as utterly necessary. The richness of Mozart’s harmonies suggested the C minor Piano Concerto, even Don Giovanni, whilst the turn to A-flat major inevitably brought to mind – as it always does to me under the fingers – the slow movement of Beethoven’s op.13. That section proved, quite properly, both contrast and intensification. The finale sounded, without melodrama, a note of unrelenting tragedy; even in the major mode, intensity of performance and awareness of context did their tragic work. Mozart’s music sounded, as it should, both close to and distinct from Beethoven.