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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata No.16 in C major, K545 Sonata facile (1788) [11:46]
Piano Sonata No.10 in C major, K330 (300h) (1783) [20:41]
Piano Sonata No.11 in A major, K331 (300i) (1783) [22:01]
Das Butterbrot in C major, K Anh.C.27.09 (A.284n) [1:05]
Paul Badura-Skoda (fortepiano)
rec. February 2013, Mozarthaus, Vienna
GRAMOLA 98989 [55:41]

Much is made, and rightly, of nonagenarian Menahem Pressler’s continued longevity and his still vivid place in studio life. Spare a thought, too, for Paul Badura-Skoda, who is now eighty-six - at the time of writing - and, like Pressler, continues to record. In one respect, at least, his latest release turns the tables on his distinguished contemporary - as far as I know Pressler has never recorded on a fortepiano.
 
It’s to this instrument that Badura-Skoda turns in his presentation of these three Mozart sonatas. He plays on a Viennese c.1790 Anton Walter fortepiano - that’s how I interpret the detail in the jewel case listing, as there’s nothing about it in the booklet - which sounds to have been maintained in generally good condition. Badura-Skoda may not seem the most likely candidate for the fortepiano given his long career as a pianist of distinction, but in fact his sensitivity and attention to clarity serve him very well on the instrument. He has to remain the master of such details because the Walter is a somewhat nasally-toned beast, and somewhat prone to a clangy sound. This can be initially distracting, even off-putting, but I suggest sticking with Badura-Skoda.
 
The pleasures of sticking with him can be enjoyed in the so-called Sonata facile, the famed C major, the first of two in this key programmed one after the other. Badura-Skoda’s sense of fun and expressive precision dovetail very attractively, whilst he attends diligently to the Alberti bass in the slow movement as his right hand gracefully explores the lyricism inherent in the music. He makes a fine showing of some opportunities for dynamic contrast in the finale. K330 gives him an opportunity to bring to the fanfare figures a different kind of sonority, whilst the extensive runs are controlled with considerable grace. Such is his modus operandi in this sonata; sample the little detonations in the left hand, and the rhythmic buoyancy he brings to the Allegretto. The Sonata in A major, the sonata that’s not in sonata form, is notable for his elegant observation of its grazioso element, though arguably there are moments when the instrument fails fully to communicate such. One notes the thoughtful way he tries to vary repeated phrases without drawing attention, the charm of the central minuet and the Janissary Alla Turca finale, a famous moment that he plays with fine judgement. He ends the recital with a sweetmeat, the Bread and Butter in C major (Das Butterbrot). This was attributed to Mozart in the nineteenth-century but no one seriously believes it to be by him. It makes for a dainty close.
 
The recording was made at the Mozarthaus in Vienna and is commendably clear. Admirers of this under-sung pianist will doubtless relish the challenge of Badura-Skoda the fortepianist.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 


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