Mozart: Piano Sonatas on Fortepiano, Vol. 1: K. 279, K. 280 & K. 281by Robert Levin
These bracing, unorthodox fortepiano readings of Mozart's first three keyboard sonatas are the first in a series by Robert Levin, a professor at Harvard University. Levin is among the first players to use the fortepiano's agility in the service of speed and flash. His Mozart is quick, jumpy, technically impressive, and distinctly unlyrical -- "un-Mozartian" will be the first reaction for many listeners. Sample the Presto finale of the "Piano Sonata in F major, K. 280," for an example of what you're getting into here. The question arises as to why piano sonatas should sound so different from other Mozart works of the same period, which often spoke in a light French accent. Levin has an answer for that: Mozart's keyboard music holds a central place in his repertoire. He was "renowned first and foremost as a keyboard virtuoso," and in evaluating the legacy of his keyboard music "it is essential to bear in mind the primacy of keyboard improvisation in Mozart's career." This is an unusual viewpoint on Mozart's works, and indeed on the entire Classical period, but it finds a good deal of documentary support in the composer's letters. In Levin's view the three sonatas here, rarely placed near the top of Mozart's list of accomplishments, "constitute a true watershed: in them Mozart's freedom and variety of rhythm emerge in full flower, both in the spontaneity of the melodic flow and in the choice of textures." Levin's approach has much to recommend it: hear how he makes the rhythmic shift in the first movement of K. 280 sound like an improvisational device. Interesting also is the fortepiano used, a copy of an instrument Mozart is known to have liked; it is well-tempered (not equal-tempered) and tuned to the "in-between" A=430 Hz. This CD will be of most interest to students and listeners who are giving a lot of thought to the sound world of Classical-era keyboard music; it's an essentially speculative enterprise, but, as such, quite well executed.
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Performance CreditsRobert Levin Primary Artist
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