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Acte Prealable Polish CDs

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Works - vol.1
Sonata in G, KV 283 [12:55]
Sonata in C, KV 309 [17:29]
Sonata in D, KV 331 [23:00]
Fantasia in D minor, KV 397 [6:18]
Sonata in B flat, KV 570 [16:30]
Gabriele Tomasello (piano)
rec. Rome, 6-8 July 2012. DDD

It is not easy to see who this disc is intended for. Mozart's piano sonatas have been recorded by giants like Klára Würtz, Daniel Barenboim, Mitsuko Uchida, Maria João Pires, András Schiff and Alicia de Larrocha, with more fringe tastes catered for by the likes of Glenn Gould, Ronald Brautigam, Bart van Oort and Daniel-Ben Pienaar. Those are just some of the complete sets - almost every great pianist has recorded at least a few of the sonatas. Who then is going to take more than an academic interest in a planned cycle by a relatively unknown pianist like Gabriele Tomasello?
Problems facing this new release are compounded by the fact that Acte Préalable's CDs do not come cheap: for less than the price of this single first volume, the buyer on a budget can have Würtz or Pires on Brilliant Classics (respectively 94034, 94271) or Gould on Sony (88725413592) - that is to say, their complete cycles on five CDs apiece!
Do Acte Préalable or Tomasello have an ace up their sleeve, something that makes this recording a must-have in the face of all that competition? Alas, apart from a generous running time and an extraordinarily glossy booklet, the answer is no, not really. It is not that Tomasello is not a good player. Though like many pianists he takes a certain liberty with dynamic markings, in general his account of Mozart is faithful. The difficulty is rather that he does not yet (in his early thirties) have sufficient individuality to stamp his style on Mozart's deceptive music. However appealing the idea to a pianist on paper, a complete cycle of these sonatas is a demanding project, and in the modern overcrowded marketplace, a high degree of personality - or a very low cover price! - is the only way to get attention. Even then, there are no guarantees.
Though AP's audio engineering is good in most respects, the piano sounds a little too far back from the microphones, lending it something of the 'air' of a fortepiano. The booklet notes by Lukasz Kaczmarek are detailed, though they do suffer from empurplement ("As if a shadow of doubt had crept into his hopeful young heart...") and one or two inaccuracies ("the third movement [of K.311], the well-known Turkish March"). This tendency was probably not helped by a less than perfect translation from the Polish, which throws up at least one item for the scrapbook: "[...] in Vienna in February 1789, when Mozart suffered depravation (sic) and anxiety".
Nevertheless, for those urgently wanting to support an independent Polish label and get hold of a reasonable recording of Mozart's sonatas, this is not a bad CD. As volume one contains some of the most popular works, it also serves well as a 'best of' for those whose budgets are unlikely to stretch to a full series.
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