William Youn plays Mozart Sonatas, Vol. 2

William Youn

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William Youn plays Mozart Sonatas, Vol. 2 Review

by James Manheim

This is the second in a cycle of Mozart sonatas by Korean pianist William Youn, who has the talent to sustain this entry into the Mozart field. Youn considers the sonatas equally important as Mozart's keyboard concertos, and the brilliant, intense interpretations he offers here fit well with the contention. This is not a good pick for those oriented toward historically accurate Mozart performances; the heavy (though flawlessly distinct) runs and sharp accents in transition passages might well cause Mozart to think he had lost his mind if he heard them. On the other hand, one can't deny the originality of Youn's conception, nor the consistency with which he carries it through. Youn really does try to elevate the sonatas to the level of major works, with tough, original designs, and he comes close to being convincing. There are lots of economical details that come through in this recording as they do in few others, and Youn is a player with rare technical gifts. Oehms' sound is a major plus here; working at the Schloss Britz in Berlin, the engineers put listeners up close to Youn and catch the ringing tone of his loud runs. For those of two minds about Youn's style, which is extreme in the way that Glenn Gould's was, try the Piano Sonata in F major, K. 332: the quasi-symphonic conception of the first movment, with its "Mannehim rocket" second theme, fits the big dimensions of Youn's playing. One looks forward to Youn's take on the intricate, incomplete F major sonata, K. 533, presumably to come on a future volume; it should be a tightly wound, tense knot. For many, however, he places too much weight on the earlier sonatas.

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