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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Complete Piano Sonatas: Volume 2
No. 9 in D major, K311 (1777) [16:31]
No. 4 in E-flat major, K282 (1775) [13:27]
No. 1 in C K279 (1775) [13:17]
No. 6 in D K284 "Dürnitz" (1775) [16:35]
Jean Muller (piano)
rec. 2016, Grand Auditorium, Conservatoire de la Ville de Luxembourg

Here we have the second Hänssler Classics volume of a projected cycle of the complete Mozart piano sonatas. Luxembourg-born Muller is professor of piano at the Conservatoire de la Ville de Luxembourg where he again chose to record this programme in the Grand Auditorium. Volume One was reviewed very favourably by my colleague Michael Cookson. As with the first volume we have a selection, rather than a chronological sequence; not that there is much of a gap in terms of dates of composition.

Mozart wrote Piano Sonata No. 9 K311 in 1777, whilst in Mannheim where he learned the practices of the “Mannheim School”. As Muller points out in his concise but illuminating notes, the young (21) Mozart first fell in love with Aloysa Weber before marrying her sister Constanze. This Sonata has the vitality and freshness of “young love’. The first movement Allegro con brio is certainly played with lively panache. The slow movement is aptly described as Andante con espressione and is reminiscent of love duets from his later operas. It is so moving and is evidence of the depth of Mozart’s piano sonatas; sonatas that are still dismissed in some quarters. The energetic Rondeau is full of typical inventiveness and humour. The playing has a studied quality and shows, on my first exposure to this pianist, that he is “inside” the music. Also he plays, where necessary, with vigour.

Piano Sonata No. 4 K282 is one of the first six sonatas, written in Munich. They form a cycle and three of them fill the rest of the recital. K282 is on simpler lines than the later sonatas and as Muller points out, shows influences of Joseph Haydn, whose sixty plus sonatas seem ignored by many. The Adagio first movement has a languid air but the most engaging is the Allegro finale. Muller clearly loves this music and conveys its charm. He ensures that it is never too sweet and at the same time gives the lie to those who disparage Mozart as superficial.

Mozart was 18 when he composed his first piano Sonata, K279. Wikipedia advises that it was written, except for the first part of the opening movement, during the visit Mozart paid to Munich for the production of La finta giardiniera from late 1774 to the beginning of the following March. The debut Sonata is entirely written in the Sonata form and certainly looks back to the Baroque, whilst clearly having the imprimatur of Mozart. Whilst wanting in the depths of the later works, we have here a mature stylist. Many of the touches that adorn his famous sonatas are already present; especially the hallmark trills. I love the Andante and envy those who are able to play these pieces, in Schnabel’s words, “Too easy for Children, Too difficult for Adults”. The Allegro Finale shows that Mozart knew his J.S. Bach as well as Haydn and how to transmute these influences into something unique.

Jean Muller regards the Sonata K284, dedicated to Baron Dürnitz, as the most important of the six Munich sonatas and he’s written some very interesting and informative notes. What is apparent is that in such a short time, Mozart seems more comfortable in the idiom and this is demonstrable by the force of the opening Allegro. I should say that Jean Muller is able to be expressive and shows strength without over-hitting the keys; in that respect he reminds me of the late Dinu Lipatti in K310. There is the sublime development in the Andante en polonaise and again those charming well-defined trills each having a touch of Bach. The twelve Variations of the third movement last fifteen minutes which make this Sonata, Mozart’s longest. The sheer scale of this movement is far larger than anything that has preceded it on this recital. Muller has given thought to the order in which these works should be presented. What makes this recording even more special is that Muller has combined both versions of Variation 11; one simple and the other highly embellished. There are delightful contrasts in this movement and the Sonata repays repeated listenings in the discovery of its many qualities.

These are special performances and as a group make a highly effective addition to Jean Muller’s intended Mozart cycle. I hope that the next volume will not be delayed too long. I found the disc a sheer joy from start to finish and I hope others do too.
David R Dunsmore

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