Maria João Pires

Mozart: Piano Sonatas Nos. 10, 11, 12 & 14

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No clue is given as to the origins of the four Mozart piano sonata recordings collected on this album on the Regis label, but it sounds newer than other albums that have been rescued by that reissue house. Whenever it was recorded, it's very nice. Mozart is one of the central specialties of Portuguese-Brazilian pianist Maria-João Pires, and she has a distinctive style that runs counter to Mozartian trends. It's delicate, extremely agile, and extremely sensitive, never rising above moderate dynamic levels. She's at her best in works with initially neutral thematic material, such as the Piano Sonata in C major, K. 330, or Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major, K. 332; here she finds very subtle melodic inflections and gives Mozart's brilliant ornaments the weight one imagines he himself would have laid on them. In the Piano Sonata in C minor, K. 457, where nearly everyone else stresses the proto-Beethovenian quality of the music, Pires offers a decorous, almost subdued reading; it's worth hearing for the surprise alone. Only in the flashier Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331, does she offer readings that are a bit mannered by modern standards, and even this, with its gamboling Rondo alla Turca, is anything but dull. A nice find from an often neglected pianist.

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