Mozart sonatas on clavichord awarded 5 stars

“Giovanni De Cecco’s monumental Mozart marathon continues with the recording of all the
Keyboard Sonatas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for the industrious Da Vinci label.
This would certainly not be a novelty, since the complete recordings of these Sonatas have appeared several times in the record market showcase, entrusted to the hands of the most celebratedi nternational pianists. The challenge, however, is this time to execute them with the clavichord, a challenging instrument which has sounds very different (and more slender) from the piano and also a certain inequality of registers between the various areas of the keyboard, but which was certainly a popular instrument in Mozart’s time also for the study of finger pressure on the key (it is in fact an instrument with hammers and not plucked like the harpsichord).
And one can soon feel the colouristic difference in the famous and visionary Fantasia in C minor K 475 of 1785 (at the time published together with the Sonata in the same key, perhaps at the wish of the author himself), almost unrecognisable on the clavichord, not only for its colouristic density, but also for its much more strongly contrasted dynamic intensity.
In the fifth stage of this Mozartian mega-project, two Sonatas make a beautiful setting here: the Sonata No. 14 of strong dramatic tension, almost pre-Beethovenian (in C minor K 457 of 1784) dedicated to one of his pupils and the No. 10 (in C major K 330 written in Paris in the summer of 1778 and published by Artaria in Vienna in 1784), that is to say two of the most dazzling expressions of Mozart’s sonatism.
As a true wizard of the keyboard, who knows how to tame the keys of the rare instrument (often preferred to the more dynamic fortepiano), De Cecco can skilfully create sound atmospheres, not letting himself be conditioned by the interpretative mainstream, but taking full advantage of the instrument’s unique and special features.
Of course, we do not know (and we cannot swear to it) that precisely this was the Mozart that reached the ears of Amadeus and his Viennese audience; however, the sonic fascination of the operation is unquestionable and is enhanced here even more in well-known pages of the Salzburgian composer.
The already noted strong dynamic and colouristic contrast between the lower register and the high register almost seems to confer even more dramatic and almost theatrical depth to the pages. This allows us in any case to listen to Mozart with new ears and uncover unprecedented nuances. A Mozart, if possible, somehow even more connected with the rest of his production, especially theatrical.
The sonorous instrument used here is a five-octave Saxon clavichord built in 2018 by Joris Potvlieghe on a model from the 1770s.”

Lorenzo Tozzi

(“Musica”, issue of February 2023)

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