MOZART Piano Sonatas Vol 2 (Peter Donohoe)
The second instalment of Peter Donohoe’s Mozart survey was recorded as recently as this March. He and Somm’s recording team return to the Birmingham Conservatoire and to a Bechstein piano that sounds ideal in this music – beautifully sonorous but without the brashness a Steinway might have brought to it. The sonatas are the trilogy composed during Mozart’s ill-fated trip of 1777-78 via Mannheim to Paris, during which the gradual break from his father – both emotionally and artistically – became more inevitable, exacerbated by his mother’s death in July 1778.
Donohoe takes each work at face value, keeping shifts of tempo and impromptu ornamentation to a minimum but still playing with the sensitivity that was palpable in Vol 1 (4/19). Nos 7 and 9 don’t enjoy the profile of the A minor Sonata, No 8, but Donohoe is alive to the almost symphonic dimension of the writing in the outer movements of each. You can tell he particularly enjoys those moments during which the music is at its most ‘fingery’ – for a pianist who has played the likes of Prokofiev at the highest level for so long, a delight in strings of semiquavers is no surprise, and he purrs through passages that can so often otherwise sound effortful. And playing a work such as the later A minor Rondo (1787) without artificially applied interpretative mannerism sells it at its full worth.
Peter Donohoe’s late rapprochement with Mozart has come as a surprise to some. Outside of the obvious ‘hits’, much of this repertoire remains obstinately underrated, so it’s very much to our benefit that a pianist of his personality and musicianship has chosen to engage with it with such seriousness of purpose.