This excellent album will please those who, for decades, have absorbed Mozart on grand pianos and have these weighty grandeurs locked in their memory. Then, when we hear "less is more" courtesy of Karl Engel, we hear for the first time the clear, translucent, uncluttered transparencies that underlie all that. We have the option for OUR MEMORY TO SUPPLY THE GRANDEUR while at the present moment our ears bring us Mozartean charm in its simplest and most transparent fashion. We're offered a powerful amalgam here --- the best of both worlds.
Engel captures the spirit of Mozart without the compulsion to shake the trees by invoking future romanticism. This IS the Mozart era --- a sure feel for the charm, insouciance and playfulness, all in the service of seriousness that's worn lightly. This is immensely illuminating + refreshing.
I enjoy conjuring up the image that this is close-up Mozart as he himself might've played the pieces without anyone around, perhaps late at night. Engel conveys this lightness linked to formal perfection. For those of a certain age, my previous sentence might evoke the playing of Walter Gieseking that everyone is grateful for. Engel's playing is better. It avoids the hints of sameness that creep into the Gieseking rendition as the minutes pass.
A perfect example of what Engels is running away from full throttle is Pletnev's 2005 album of four Mozart sonatas: Mozart: Piano Sonatas In this album, Pletnev's CD insert applauds him giving the sonatas "new shades of colour". AGGHHH! Begone all new shades of colour, emotional impregnation, elastic tempii, coaxing out feelings and wringing out the hanky. "Impersonal and on target" is not too far off as a first attempt at a description of Engel's keyboard approach, leaving to us how much added freight we want it to bear. (Personally, I want only what comes out of the speaker "as is".)
This inimitable album is made more appealing by the special promotional price that affords real value for the 6 CDs.
The piano is a Steinway, light footed and free of resonance.
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