Mozart’s Piano Sonatas always take a back seat in scale and inspiration to the colossal Beethoven set. Even so, they are gems of the piano literature and have been recorded many times by the greatest artists.
To paraphrase the wonderful pianist, Schnabel, ‘Mozart is too easy for amateurs and too difficult for professionals’. The notes as seen via IMSLP seem difficult enough, but they must be played with crystalline clarity, exceptional musicality and a delicate touch. Lucky for us, we have these tenets in abundance in this important new complete set from IsoMike and the great Canadian pianist, Robert Silverman.
Silverman has tackled complete sets before. His Beethoven Sonatas set is wonderful and is strong on technique and imbued with an almost spiritual sense of depth and musicality. Not content with this ten year old achievement, I’ve read that Silverman is re recording the Beethoven Sonatas. The man has guts. And stamina.
The Mozart Sonatas span fourteen years of the composer’s creativity, from age nineteen on. Many have suggested the Sonatas are not representative of his finest works, considering the magnificent operas, symphonies, concertos and chamber music he wrote concurrently. That said, the subtle and imaginative listener could recall Schumann’s comment about Chopin’s piano music, ‘…there are cannons hidden behind the flowers’. The same applies here. There is fire and power in Mozart’s magical phrases, and they are peppered with technical challenges. The gravitas, the weight, comes from the artist’s ability to eliminate the shadow of Beethoven from the modern auditor, and allow Mozart’s singular genius a voice of its own. This is precisely what Silverman does in this magnificent set.
Each Sonata has the benefits of Silverman’s assured technique, passion, and lovely tone, with the small exception of some clangorous playing when the harmony (or Silverman) get’s excited. Silverman has mentioned in his fine essay on the Sonatas that ‘…his (Mozart’s) piano must sing; it must speak; it must shout at times.’ So, we’re warned.
Silverman’s phrasing is very beautiful. The slow movements are filled with inspiration and the outer movements unfold naturally — the many horizontal lines held this listener’s interest for hours, and where gravity takes control of the line, Silverman beguiles with wonderful touch and gorgeous tone. Superb!
The recording by IsoMike is splendid. Much like his Beethoven set, the room feels intimate, the piano dead centre and beautifully captured. Amazing realism and weight, too. I’ve read mention of a slight hiss on the recording. I listened on very revealing equipment. I could not hear the concern.
The one caveat is the price (now available on Amazon for a much reduced $131.00) With only 2400 sets produced, the investment must at least break even. But, with other great sets by Christoph Eschenbach and Maria-João Pires for $25 and $32 respectively on Amazon, the Silverman set is a luxury.
Piano is by Steinway. The booklet notes are very comprehensive — great information about Mozart and the Piano, the Sonatas in detail, and the IsoMike recording process.
This review is based on two channel listening. The release is a 4-Channel SACD - Hybrid and plays on CD Players and SACD Players. This disc contains CD Stereo, SACD Stereo and SACD Surround (4-Channel).
Sonata No. 1 in C K.279, Sonata No. 2 in F K.280, Sonata No. 3 in B flat major K.281, Sonata No. 4 in E flat K.282, Sonata No. 5 in G K.283, Sonata No. 6 in D K.284 “Durnitz”, Sonata No. 7 in C K.309, Sonata No. 8 in D K.311, Sonata No. 9 in A minor K.310, Sonata No. 10 in C K.330, Sonata No. 11 in A K.331, Sonata No. 12 in F K.332, Sonata No. 13 in B flat K.333, Fantasie & Sonata No 14 in C minor K.475/457, Sonata in 15 in F K.533/494, Sonata No. 16 in C K.545, Sonata No. 17 in B flat K.570, Sonata No. 18 in D major K.576
726441-55602-8 (7 discs)
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