Mozart: Piano Sonatas, Volume 2 – C major, K309; A minor, K310; D major, K311; Rondo in A minor, K511

Reviewed on Thu 01 Aug, 2019

A strong voice engages with a musical message ... the virtues of accuracy and ease are used to reflect the profound importance of individuality and personal involvement.

“My concert duly took place yesterday, Wednesday the 22nd….then all of a sudden a magnificent Sonata in C major, out of my head and a Rondo to finish up with.” Thus wrote Mozart to his father about a concert on 22 October 1777; and the work was K309, dedicated to Rosa Cannabich, daughter of Christian Cannabich composer and director of the Mannheim Orchestra who was also Mozart’s host during his stay in the city. But magnificence doesn’t manifest itself immediately in a first movement marked Allegro con spirito. Peter Donohoe builds up to the shocks to be heard in the development beginning in G minor, followed by D minor, A minor, then to a comfortable recapitulation in the home key that only lasts seven bars before a jarring C minor rocks the boat once more. Mozart also spoke enthusiastically of the slow movement Andante un poco adagio, a portrait of Rosa herself “which must not be taken too quickly”; and Donohoe does not, though his dynamic range could have been wider. Which it is in K310, written in Paris just after the death of the composer’s mother, and reflecting both sorrow and anguish that Donohoe plumbs with intensity and immensity. A strong voice engages with a musical message as it also does in K311 where, yet again, the virtues of accuracy and ease are used to reflect the profound importance of individuality and personal involvement. Some of that commitment is lacking in the interpretation of the Rondo K511, taken too fast for Andante, with tempi also increased for the sections in major keys. Regret here does not, however, preclude the highest recommendation for the rest. We have come a very long way since Alec Rowley declared that Mozart’s “characteristics are complete clarity of style, a limpid freshness, melodies of great charm, and a light and exquisite gracefulness. His music may be said to contain the essence of childhood and the fragrance of simplicity.”
–Nalen Anthoni