One of the earliest DDD recordings in existence, this five CD set of recordings which originally appeared on Denon, is the latest and cheapest incarnation of Maria João Pires' recordings made in 1974 for Nippon Columbia when she was not yet thirty and in the plenitude of her youthful powers: fresh, artless, technically flawless and wholly, selflessly dedicated to the advocacy of some of Mozart's happiest inventions.
The extraordinary thing about these recordings is that the Brilliant producers have never seen any need to remaster them and they are right. There is none of the edge or glassiness often associated with early digital technology: the sound is warm, rich and full despite its 37 years. My only observation regarding the clarity of the sonics is that occasionally I would like a little more weight and definition in the left hand, but whether that is due to interpretative or recording choices, I cannot say.
I recently spent some time becoming acquainted with the Mozart Sonatas as played by Walter Klien, who strikes me as a similarly unselfconscious artist who placed delicacy, freshness and charm above the desire to stamp his personality upon the music. I do not necessarily always want to hear Beethoven played in this refined, non-interventionist manner - but Beethoven is not Mozart, whose music responds to Pires' simplicity of utterance. Having said that, both artists can make very different choices of tempi, as in the most famous music in the set, the "Alla Turca" from K331 where Klien's playful impetuousness contrasts markedly with Pires' wistful poise. He hurtles through it at 3:07 while she takes literally half as long again. Both seems to work but perhaps a more revealing comparison may be made between their accounts of K 570, a more mature work redolent of Mozart's later, more profound style. To me, Pires captures somewhat more of the gentle, sighing melancholy of the Adagio; she is surprisingly free with her use of pauses and rubato and seems to make the silences sing - yet I still love the serenity of Klien's steadier pulse. Pires is similarly free with the tempi in the Adagio of K 576 and achieves a hesitant intimacy which Klien eschews in favour a more flowing melodiousness which is more andante than adagio. Again, both approaches work so well that I do not express a preference.
"Gramophone" reviews of Pires' Mozart over the years have been uniformly lukewarm; I appreciate that not everyone responds to the delicacy and grace of her interpretations and can see how more impetus and thrust might be desired but I hear no lack of tension at moments such as minor key recapitulation in the Allegro maestoso of K310.
If you do like her style, this super-bargain set in an attractive clamshell box with good notes represents a great bargain.
The cd's are in a mess. What is written on the box and on the cd is not what is played. Tracks are out of sequence and part of Sonata 9 ism missing. 2 Parts of Sonata 14 are missing. Avoid throwing your cash down the drain. Totally useless Cd set.
The 5 part Cd set is available from this Brilliant Classics group in different boxes, do not be fooled by different pictures and make up. Only a total stranger to music would purchase such rubbish. It is a pity that the Pianist has not listened the the disgusting 5 Cd presentation boxes. My set was a 5 part CD set, not a download. The sets were changed 3 times, there were pieces from Philippe Entremont - well, the whole of disc 2 was played by him. Only someone who does not know the music of Maria J Pires would claim this box set is accurate. What a disgrace, what a true mess up b y Brilliant Classics. I have the copies which prove my statements are correct. Brilliant Classics will not even correspond with me once I found out the artist switch from Maria J Pires to Philippe Entremont. One wonders who has been paid royalties for this total mess.