Mozart, arr Grieg Piano Sonatas
Now this really is something to tickle the fancy of transcription-fanciers. When Grieg added an accompaniment for a second piano to Mozart’s keyboard sonatas, he did it primarily with teaching in mind. It was apparently common practice in the 1880s for teachers to accompany their pupils on a second piano (my own teacher was still perpetuating the custom 80 years on). But the resulting compositions soon found their way into the concert-hall where, according to Grieg, “the whole thing sounded surprisingly good”.
And so it does today. In trying to “impart to several of Mozart’s sonatas a tonal effect appealing to our modern ears” Grieg left a telling little document or two on just what those late nineteenth-century Norwegian ears expected. If the C major ‘Sonata facile’ seems to sit even more sedately in the drawing-room, then it soon becomes clear that the light glinting through its windows is not a million miles away from that bouncing off the fjord waters which lap around Troldhaugen.
The C minor Fantasia becomes a dark salon melodrama (shades of Bergljot) which moves from conversation with not a little chromatic prevarication to the hanging of whimsical icicles of figuration around the major-key section. Gently exuberant harmonies cross-weave their way through the sparse trio-sonata-like textures of the opening F major before a trotting bass makes a high-stepping mountain horse of the rondo-finale.
These are Mozart-Kugeln with a bonne bouche or two of the finest Gravadlax on the side. And if these fond tributes are good enough for Elisabeth Leonskaja and Sviatoslav Richter, who could resist tasting them?'