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Orli Shaham's Mozart Sonata Series Wraps Up


Mozart: Piano Sonatas, Volumes 5 & 6 Orli Shaham, piano Canary Classics 24 Disc One: Total Time: 65:11 Disc Two: Total Time: 53:05 Recording:   ****/**** Performance: ****/****


In what is becoming a significant recording achievement for Mozarteans, Orli Shaham’s survey of the piano sonatas appears to wrap up with these final two volumes.  The elegant playing and intelligent shaping of these works has been a consistent highlight of this survey launched in 2020 on Canary Records.  The current set features five sonatas that provide a fine overview of Mozart’s earlier and more symphonic later sonatas.

Two C Major sonatas (K. 309 and 311, respectively), bookend the central D Major Sonata, K. 311.  The opening two sonatas were composed while Mozart was in Mannheim, 1777 and 1778.  There is nothing terribly unusual about either of these earlier works where the composer is adapting local styles into his own language.  K. 309 thus is a fairly straightforward piece, though the final rondo makes for a rather delightful conclusion with some witty harmonic and melodic playfulness.  The scalar work throughout is handled quite beautifully by Shaham throughout this performance which really sparkles.  The D Major sonata, K. 311 features a variety of interesting musical directions.  The opening movement development has an unique focus on the end measures of the exposition, the second movement features some interesting rhythmic interest within a rather episodic slow movement, while the finale gives us a sonata rondo that features some intriguing harmonic and chromatic moments.  There are hints here of a deeper emotional style underneath the surface.  The K. 330 sonata is from 1783 and here we are in the realm of the adult Mozart.  The rapid arpeggiated passagework here is an extension of the scale play that occurred in the earlier sonatas on this disc and there is further explorations of harmonic directions in the development sections that make for equally fascinating listening. 

Volume 6 gives us two of the more “symphonic” sonatas including the more emotional c-minor K. 457.  Composed in 1784, the work was published with the Fantasy in c, K. 475.  Mozart had by now settled in Vienna and this sonata may have been composed for teaching purposed or his own public performance use.  These minor-key pieces tend to feature some of Mozart’s deepest and intense music and that is the case here as well with a sort of dark, tragic quality that seems to hang over the whole sonata.  Even the final movement eschews the upbeat rondos of the past.  Interesting structural approaches and harmonic exploration make this a rather moving work that is almost a harbinger of Beethoven’s more emotional works.  The set concludes with K. 533/494 which is a bit more massive work in F Major.  The first two movements are equally exquisite and Mozart reused and adapted an earlier rondo to help bring the work to the more familiar 3-movements. 

The performances here are all brilliantly handled with a nice sense of shape and the formal structures being laid out quite well.  Also excellent are the ways that Shaham helps shift us through some of the more experimental aspects of the form or harmonic language along the way.  There is a similar focus on arpeggio and scale work in the volume 5 pieces which show off some of the virtuosic moments a bit.  But it is in the articulation and shaping of phrases here where Shaham’s performances continue to shine.  The Steinway she uses here allows for crisp articulation and a richness of tone across the sound spectrum that further enhances the performance.  This is all captured beautifully in the hall with proper imaging that puts the listener front and center.  Each of these releases has provided new revelations in Mozart’s sonatas that bring this set to the top of complete surveys of these pieces.  If you have not yet taken a listen to the earlier volumes, it is time to mark this as one of the significant releases in the Mozart discography and now one can even listen through all the sonatas in chronological order, though the pairings throughout the series have been intelligently determined and help each sonata stand on its own well.  Highly Recommended!


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