Ludwig Sémerjian

Mozart: Sonates, K. 281, 545, 310

(CD - ATMA Classique #22243)

Review by

This album features not just a modern replica of a fortepiano of Mozart's day but an actual old instrument, a Walther model made in Vienna around 1790. It's a noisy, clunky thing, especially in the slow movements where you hear levers moving around. A positive way of looking at Ludwig Sémerjian's performance of these three familiar Mozart sonatas would be to call it physical; he exploits the agility of the fortepiano to the hilt, with quick, intense performances that seem aimed directly at the destruction of the image of Mozart as exquisite but fragile tunesmith. A negative outlook would call these performances jittery and ungraceful. Sémerjian uses the fortepiano not to create a unified sound among these sonatas but to accentuate their differences; in his notes, he quite justifiably traces qualities of the Piano Sonata in B flat major, K. 281, to Haydn's influence, and his sharp-tongued performance of that work, while unorthodox, is bracing and fresh. The easy Piano Sonata in C major, K 545, seems a bit overloaded with pedals and other unusual effects, and the harsh, inflexible left-hand parts in the Piano Sonata in A minor, K, 310, bespeak one of those early music performers who deep down wishes that Mozart was Domenico Scarlatti. Specialists may wish to hear the instrument featured here, but general listeners have many other recordings of these sonatas, on either fortepiano or modern instruments, to choose from.

blue highlight denotes track pick