Spanish pianist Alejandro Picó-Leonís signed with the Oehms label in 2011, released the album Variations, and quickly followed it up with this ambitious release. It's ambitious inasmuch as there are countless recordings of the main works on the program, the Mozart Piano Sonata in C minor, K. 457, paired as usual with the Fantasia in C minor, K. 475, and Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 ("Waldstein"). Picó-Leonís delivers distinctive, compelling readings that run counter to those of his contemporaries. Essentially Picó-Leonís gives himself a great deal of space and fills it up with small lyrical details. He does not indulge in many tempo fluctuations, except at a very small scale, and his readings could in general be characterized as sober. But they are also completely fresh, and that's a very appealing combination. Consider the "Waldstein" finale, where the general trend has been to emphasize the work's unprecedented virtuosity and pianism. At Picó-Leonís' deliberate tempo, the two-octave C major scale the accompanies the main theme's recurrences become not virtuosic flourishes but Schumann-like revelations of inner ecstasy. It's the same way throughout, as Picó-Leonís picks the music apart with carefully molded textures and inventive insights. The harmonic palette of the Mozart works is rendered in full, and the absolutely limpid Andante Favori, WoO 54 (the original middle movement of the "Waldstein"), is an entrancing encore. If there's a complaint, it's that the massive edifice Picó-Leonís builds teeters a bit in the passagework in the later stages of the "Waldstein" finale, but this makes one eager indeed to hear more from this artist in the field of the abstract masterpieces of the 19th century.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Fantasia in C minor, KV 475|
|Sonata in C minor, KV 457|
|Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 "Waldstein"|