Original: Deutsche Grammophon (1995) Digital recording
Mozart. Piano Sonatas K.281 (1989), K.330 (1985), K.333 (1987)
Rondo K. 485 (1989), Adagio K.540 (1989)
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Horowitz loved'the music of Mozart all his life, and one of his favorite pastimes was reading the composer's letters. He spoke enthusiastically about the rich body of information they contain: "I am not interested in the speculation of others on the subject of how to play Mozart - only in what the composer himself had to say. We are very fortunate to have so many wonderful and instructive letters, and the key to interpreting his music can be found in them. One of the most important facts that comes to light is Mozart's emphasis on feeling and expression in music-making. He continually criticized his contemporaries for mechanical, meaningless virtuosity and a lack of feeling and sensitivity. We can see in his letters that he was a sensuous, earthy man with a wide range of emotions. He expressed them all in his music, and in that sense he was really a Romantic composer. To approach him as if he were a pretty, rococo porcelain figurine on a pedestal is to rob his music of its essential, universal character, its power to evoke joy as well as tears. Pablo Casals once told me that Mozart should be played like Chopin and Chopin like Mozart!"
"We also learn from Mozart's letters an important interpretative insight regarding the use of rubato. Mozart believed that the left hand should always remain strictly in time, while the right hand may enjoy rhythmic freedom. In a letter to his father dated 24 October 1777 he wrote: 'Everyone is amazed that I can keep strict time. What these people cannot grasp is that in tempo rubato, in a slow movement, the left hand should go on playing in strict time. With them the left hand follows the right.' Some 60 years later, Chopin paraphrased Mozart; The left hand is the conductor. It must not waver or lose ground; do with the right hand what you will and can.'"
It is deceptive, Horowitz believed, to think of Mozart's piano writing as simple. It takes great artistry to bring the notes fully to life, and since the texture is so spare, everything is exposed. Horowitz liked to quote what Rachmaninov said of the opening of his own Third Piano Concerto, a simple melody played in octaves: easy as it may seem, Rachmaninov felt that it was more difficult than the rest of the Concerto. "Mozart was a virtuoso-composer just like Chopin or Liszt", Horowitz explained, "but his virtuosity is expressed in fewer notes, and every note is equally important. Because of the spare textures, Mozart's piano music needs more color, not less, than so-called Romantic music in which color is already an integral part of the composition." So it is, he felt, that today's pianos with their wide tonal palette are well suited for Mozart. He added: "One can get all the color one needs from a modern piano and also extract the sounds of a period instrument - but not the converse. With Mozart one uses less pedal in order to keep the textures clear. For example, when he employs an Albert! bass, one must hear the left hand with crisp articulation. The bass line was just as important to Mozart as it was to Bach - the foundation of the harmonic structure." Horowitz summed up his approach to Mozart by saying: "The music of Mozart possesses a rich, human and heartfelt quality. In one of his letters, he wrote that the best piano in Europe meant nothing to him without an audience that 'feels with me in what I am playing'. His message is clear."
From notes by Edward Greenfield
Sonata in B flat major, K. 333 (315c)
This is one of Mozart's most advanced and musically rich piano sonatas. What is most interesting here is that the finale has the flavor of a concerto movement: it shifts back and forth between sections that have distinct solo and tutti characteristics. This occurs right at the beginning of the movement. The first eight bars sound like a solo and the second eight bars, using the same theme, give the impression of an orchestral tutti. Such contrasts recur at various points in the different sections of this rondo. The concerto flavor is heightened at the end with a brilliant cadenza - the only one in all of Mozart's piano sonatas.
Vladimir Horowitz. (Edited by Edward Greenfield)
Sonata in B-flat major, K. 281 (189f)
The exact date of composition of this sonata has never been conclusively established. Most editions assume the year 1774, but T suspect that it was composed later. The first movement. Allegro, is an energetic display of varied keyboard patterns reflecting the tremendous scope of Mozart's musical imagination. It requires crisp, light and delicate tone production and sounds as though it was inspired by Haydn. Mozart must have enj oyed his own considerable pianistic dexterity when playing movements such as this. The mood is light rather than deep. By contrast, the second movement, Andante amoroso, is outstanding for its depth of feeling and lyricism. As far as I know, this is the only time Mozart used the expression amoroso (amorous). He must have been very much in love when he wrote this movement. Its lyricism is very operatic. Accordingly, I feel that the appoggiaturas should be played lyrically, as 16th notes (semiquavers), not shorter. The relative economy of notes in Mozart's keyboard works compared with those of later composers means that special attention to color and lyricism is required in order to play this movement amorously, as he instructs. The finale, Rondeau: Allegro, on the other hand, demands lightness, delicacy and great keyboard dexterity at a rapid tempo. There is much wit and charm in this music. This Sonata, because of the Andante amoroso, is one of Mozart's most unusual, and I feel it is quite appropriate to apply to it the sobriquet Sonata
Adagio in B-minor, K. 540
Written in 1788, when Mozart was 32 years old, this is among his most subjective works and shows the great depth of feeling of which he was capable. The mood is one of seriousness, solemnity and pathos. It is truly an extraordinary work. The chromatic harmonies in the development section foreshadow Chopin and Wagner. In this respect, Mozart laid the harmonic groundwork for future generations of composers from Beethoven to Tchaikovsky and Verdi. It is interesting that Mozart chose the dark key of B minor, which otherwise hardly ever occurs in his works.
Rondo in D major, K. 485
This piece was composed in 1786 and is playful and happy, in contrast to the B minor Adagio. It takes its character from its good-natured main theme, which returns periodically in accordance with rondo form. The playfulness derives from Mozart's apparent delight in transposing the theme from treble to bass, modulating into distant keys, shifting moods from major to minor, and shocking his audience with a surprising deceptive (interrupted) cadence towards the end.
-Vladimir Horowitz (Edited by Thomas Frost)