Leopold KOŽELUCH (1747-1818)
Complete Piano Sonatas - Volume 7
Piano Sonata No. 25 in D major, Op. 26, No. 1, P. XII: 26 (1788) [15:12]
Piano Sonata No. 26 in A Minor, Op. 26, No. 2, P. XII: 27 (1788) [20:17]
Piano Sonata No. 27 in E flat Major, Op. 26, No. 3, P. XII: 28 (1788) [15:59]
Piano Sonata No. 28 in B flat Major, Op. 30, No. 1, P. XII: 29 (1789) [16:55]
Kemp English (fortepiano)
rec. August 2012, Mobbs Early Keyboard Collection, Golden Bay, New Zealand
GRAND PIANO GP731 [68:22]
Kemp English’s wonderful cycle of piano sonatas by Leopold Koželuch has reached mid-point (he aims to record 50 works, written between 1773 and 1810) (reviews of Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5, Volume 6). Enthusiasts for the keyboard music of high classicism should try one of these recordings, whose richness and invention may well make you reach for another.
As a Vienna-based piano virtuoso in the 1780s, Koželuch was a colleague and rival to Mozart. The two pianists were apparently neither enemies nor friends. Mozart was pleased when mutual friends told him that Koželuch refused an invitation to fill his old post in Salzburg, on account of the Archbishop’s prior ill-treatment of Mozart. Later, Mozart had music-printing entrepreneur Koželuch engrave his Prussian String Quartets.
In his informative notes, English makes the case that Koželuch should not be regarded merely as a forgotten contemporary of Mozart, but was an important influence on the piano compositions of Beethoven and Schubert.
On this disc are four works from 1788 and 1789, the three sonatas of Op. 26 and the first of three from Op. 30. They are marked by clarity, melodic invention, and sophisticated display. It is no wonder Mozart regarded him as a serious competitor.
Sonata No. 25 in D major opens with a rather galumphing tune, which quickly turns into florid and sophisticated music for the hunt. A gentle Adagio provides a calmer, more yearning mood, followed by a jaunty rondo.
There are only two movements in Sonata No. 26 in A minor. The minor key signals music that is not tragic, but certainly melancholy. An allegro sounds Mozartean, with an underlying current of unease. The second movement is a lengthy set of variations on a slow and steady theme. Eight rather routine variations follow in what is the only disappointing movement on the disc.
My favorite among these works is the Sonata No. 27 in E flat. The opening Allegro starts with a plain but emphatic theme, quickly turning into something much more energetic, and at times dazzling. A Larghetto alla Siciliano provides unexpected emotional depth. The final rondo is marked Allegro con fuoco, and continues the brilliance of the work to its end.
Sonata No. 28 in B flat opens with a suave and knowing Allegro, continues with a more serious and probing slow movement, and ends with a happy rondo. This is the only work for which there is an alternative recording, by Diane Andersen on Talent. Andersen plays well, but English is more nuanced. Andersen offers a zippier pace for the final Allegretto.
English plays a modern fortepiano by Paul Downie, after an Anton Walter instrument from around 1795. English coaxes an astonishing variety of timbres from this piano over the course of four sonatas.
If you have multiple Haydn and Mozart sonata recordings, you will probably enjoy these fine pieces as well. English plays them with obvious pleasure and respect.