Yaara Tal

Polonaise: Franz Xaver Mozart, Frédéric Chopin

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Franz Xaver Mozart, son of Wolfgang, was born in 1791 just five months before his father's death. He hardly knew the great Mozart, yet he was promoted by the indefatigable Constanze as a prodigy in the same vein. Finding a job in Poland must have been a relief, and it also introduced him to the genre of the polonaise, then in its infancy. Usually it is his two piano concertos, one of them a clear W.A. Mozart knockoff, that are played. His two sets of polonaises have rarely been explored on recordings prior to this release by pianist Yaara Tal, and they're entirely distinctive and interesting. Franz Xaver has a bit of the family melancholy, and influence here comes perhaps from the late Mozart piano works like the Adagio in B minor, K. 540: the shift to major in the center is handled in a similar way. But the music in general does not follow Classical models: the pieces emphasize melody rather than dance rhythms, and they unmistakably look forward to the Romantic dance piece. In her notes Tal even speculates that the young Chopin himself may have known and been influenced by these works, and includes three youthful Chopin polonaises as evidence. It's certainly plausible: Franz Xaver was a celebrated touring pianist. Sample the first of the 4 Polonaises Mélancoliques, Op. 22, and decide for yourself; whatever the case, the pieces are worth hearing on their own merits. Strong Bavarian Radio studio sound is another attraction.

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