Roland Batik

Batik Plays Mozart

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It's well known that the Western concert repertoire, well into the Romantic era in many genres, had an improvisatory component that is now mostly lost. Not only were the cadenzas in Mozart's keyboard concertos, and in many smaller works of the period, improvised on the spot; there were also other improvisatory passages that might appear elsewhere in a composition or precede it as an introduction. Few of these were notated, and there remains much work to do in even getting an idea of what they might have sounded like. That isn't even the aim of this experimental album by Austrian (not Indonesian) pianist Roland Batik, who, it is not at all surprising to learn, was a student of Friedrich Gulda. It's not clear from the tracklist, but what he has done is prepend introductions to two Mozart piano works, the Fantasy in D minor, K. 397, and the Piano Sonata in F major, K. 332. Neither is in Mozartian style, and they're different from each other. Both are linked to the the material of the main composition. The opening Blues in F looks like a separate composition on the cover, but it's motivically linked to the Fantasy that follows. The Introduction that precedes the K. 332 sonata is pretty much unprecedented: it's a little stylistic panorama leading the listener stepwise back from perhaps Schumann's era to the material of the sonata. It's hard to say what the point of Batik's exercise might be; his two interpolations from the present are entirely different in tone, and there's no clear reason why, of the four Mozart compositions on the album, only two of them receive the experimental treatment. Perhaps he wants, like Gulda, to define a new relationship between modern pianist and classic repertoire, but the program lacks internal consistency. Nor can he quite decide to what extent he wants to give an improvised feel to the pure Mozart music on the program. Yet there's no denying that he has accomplished something completely novel, and it's worth remembering that Gulda was plenty controversial in his time. If Batik inspires more coherent experiments from other performers, his time will have been well spent. Booklet notes (apparently different rather than simply translated from one to the other) are in Japanese and English.

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