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Robert Levin / Mozart: The Piano Sonatas               ECM New Series 2710-16


První kompletní nahrávka klavírních sonát W. A. Mozarta na skladatelův vlastní nástroj - fortepiano od Antona Waltera z roku 1782. Tento výpravný 7CD boxový set obsahuje také nedokončené fragmenty rakouského skladatele, zde doplněné americkým klavíristou a mozartovským učencem Robertem Levinem s ohledem na Mozartovy idiomy a kompoziční manýry jeho doby. Také interpretace klavírních sonát Roberta Levina se řídí zvyklostmi interpretační praxe první vídeňské školy, včetně improvizovaných prvků a dekorací v reprízách. Nahrávky doprovází 100stránkový booklet s rozsáhlým pojednáním o sonátách od ředitele Mozartea a odborníka na Mozarta Ulricha Leisingera, dále Levinovou poznámku interpreta, rukopisné partitury a další.

“One of the central questions that confronts an interpreter of classic period music, is what the meaning really is of repeats. In the narrowest and most literal sense of course it says you go back and you play what you have just played before. But we know that an important element of 18th century performance was the decoration of repeats. And when we look at Mozart’s sonatas we can see that this issue is very much central to his way of conceiving things,” explains Levin.

The pianist traces the customs on how to deal with repeats back to Carl Pilipp Emmanuel Bach, who, in a forward to his Sonatas with Varied Reprises (1759), commented on the practice of repeats extensively, noting, at the time, that “decoration of repeats is in the present day indispensable” and “expected of every executant.” C.P.E. Bach had been a big influence on Mozart, and Levin treats his piano sonatas accordingly, by not only limiting himself to small embellishments in the descant, but applying changes that involve the entire compositional fabric. Thus, the repeats are handled freely, with altered details in the melody, the accompaniment and, as the occasion demands, the harmony, and even with short interpolations (additional material added in-between musical phrases).

In addition to this historically informed approach to the sonatas, Levin also offers completions of sonata movements which Mozart never finished. Levin’s compositional vision for the fragments reveal the pianist’s profound knowledge and understanding of Mozart’s diction and the musical language of the composer’s time. On the Sonata movement in C major, K 42 (35a) Levin observes: “this cheerful triple-meter fragment breaks off after 25 bars, leaving us with the main and secondary themes. It should be obvious that the piece breaks off precisely at the beginning of a sequence intended to lead to the coda. My completion attempts to maintain the movement’s high spirits and outspoken character.”

With the aim of a most authentic delivery, the entirety of the sonatas are performed on Mozart’s own fortepiano, whose limited width of roughly 100 cm combined with numerous other particular construction-related details make for a distinguished, woody sound that brings out the characteristics of Mozart’s sonatas with special transparency. The piano was built by Anton Gabriel Walter, most likely in 1782, and, as Mozart-expert and Mozarteum-director Ulrich Leisinger explains in the liner notes, “is noteworthy for a silvery sound rich in overtones, and for its surprisingly distinct bass notes, compared to those of a modern concert grand piano.” Mozart used this specific piano from 1785 on.

The recordings are accompanied by a 100-page booklet featuring an essay on the sonatas and the instrument by Ulrich Leisinger, a performer’s note by Levin, manuscript-scores and more. The Sonatas were recorded at the Großer Saal, Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation.

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