Mozart’s four-hand piano music ‘unwrapped’ at King’s Place

18/09/2011

 Mozart Four Hand Piano Music: Charles Owen (piano), Katya Apekisheva (piano). Hall One, Kings Place,London, 17.9.2011 (MB)

Adagio and Allegro in F minor, KV 594
Sonata in F major, KV 497
Adagio and Fugue in C minor, KV 426
Sonata in D major, KV 448/375a

This latest ‘Mozart Unwrapped’ concert – Kings Place has chosen Brahms to be ‘unwrapped’ next year – featured piano music for four hands, the first half involving one piano, the second half two pianos. Charles Owen and Katya Apekisheva offered generally cultivated readings, though I sometimes found myself wishing for less politeness: this Mozart sometimes veered too close to Dresden china.

The F minor Adagio and Allegro, KV 594, written for mechanical organ, opened with admirable clarity, Mozart’s neo-Baroque chromaticism permitted to tell. The Allegro exhibited a good sense not only of Mozart’s orchestral imitation, not only of typical four-hand texture, but also of his organ writing, strong Handelian influence registering clearly and with purpose. There was lightness of touch but that did not imply superficiality. When the Adagio tempo returned, the material sounded properly transformed by what had passed before. As in an opera shortly to come, La clemenza di Tito, even relatively ‘impersonal’ Mozart remains utterly personal.

Hints of Schubert in the textures of the opening movement of the four-hand F major sonata, KV 497, were welcome, though they might have been brought out more strongly. There was, moreover, more than an occasional sense of tentativeness to be heard, from Apekisheva in particular, in certain passages from the Adagio introduction. The performance improved once the main Allegro fell properly into its swing, particularly illuminating attention being paid to Mozart’s inner parts, where much of the joy of his writing for four hands is to be discovered. It was a relief to hear an Andante taken as an Andante, given time to breathe, especially with such a wealth of inner material. However, the slow movement as a whole sounded a little too tasteful, albeit better that than having irrelevant ‘personality’ stamped upon the music in exhibitionistic fashion. Contrapuntal intricacies were well handled, whilst the operatic style harked back (knowingly) to the two-hand F major piano sonata, KV 332/300k. The sense of a concerto finale was there in the third movement, but might have been stronger, more rollicking even. Still, there was much to savour in the complex, almost Schoenbergian working out of inner counterpoint.

The Adagio and Fugue in C minor received a delicate reading, but is delicate what it really needs? (I think especially of a 1947 performance from Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic.) Owen and Apekisheva produced some exquisitely veiled playing though, especially in the fugue, I could not help but wish they had gone for the jugular. The fugue, oddly, sounded as if it too had been written for mechanical organ, the sense of a Bachian – or Bergian – labyrinth lacking. One could hear a commendable degree of detail, but what did it mean?

The D major sonata for two pianos opened in less tentative fashion, but retained that sense of (neo-classical?) automation. Though the tempo for the first movement was to my mind a couple of notches too fast, the problem was at least as much that it never yielded. The players were technically secure throughout, but, even in a piece that is sunny but hardly full of hidden depths, the music felt somewhat skated over. Much the same could be said of the Andante, taken on the fast side and unyielding. I missed any sense of what was going on beneath the surface: where was the yearning in those operatic phrases? Though marked Molto allegro, the finale sounded more of a Presto – and, more to the point, on occasion a garbled Presto. Such human music must never sound as if engaged in a mere race to the finish; it must always be allowed to breathe. Even when a ritardando was applied, it sounded calculated, adding to the feeling of music by metronome.

Mark Berry

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The 18th Oxford Lieder Festival from 11 to 26 October 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anjali Dance Company Genius UK Tour 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall 2019-2020 Season Highlights __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! HarrisonParrott celebrates 50 years at the Royal Festival Hall __________________________________
  • NEW! Highgate International Chamber Music Festival’s Beethoven 249 in November __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST JAMES LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! The Joys of the Marlboro Music Festival: Chamber Music’s Best-Kept Secret __________________________________
  • NEW! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month