Christian Blackshaw

Mozart: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1

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British pianist Christian Blackshaw has been called a musician's musician, and these fine, subtle readings of Mozart piano sonatas are full of the level of detail that could suggest that description. The album is the first in a series of live Mozart sonata recordings from London's Wigmore Hall, and the live sound is all that could be desired. Blackshaw adds variety to each program by presenting music from different periods of Mozart's career and in different expressive modes. Here there are several early sonatas, with two that might easily have been performed on a harpsichord, and two that moved decisively in the direction of pianistic expression, plus the strangely minimalist Piano Sonata No. 17 in B flat major, K. 570, from the last year of Mozart's life. To get an idea of Blackshaw's artistry, sample the differences in texture and articulation he applies to these works. Using a modern piano throughout, but giving it the agility of a fortepiano, he adds in the new capabilities of the piano as Mozart's style develops, making his approach appropriate to each work rather than imposing a single style on them all. The first two sonatas, which are hard to bring alive, are bright, brilliant, and very lively, and Blackshaw gives the slow movements their proper emotional weight. There is not one masterstroke here but an accumulation of intelligent small insights that makes this a performance to treasure. Few pianists could sustain interest in these sonatas over a program filling two compact discs, but for Blackshaw it is not a problem.

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