Why programme all eighteen piano sonatas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Even in the presence of one of the greatest composers who has lived, is there enough contrast of material to keep the listener nourished? The other dilemma, more challenging for any pianist, is the music itself, which must breathe and give life to every phrase: to my mind, the sonatas resemble mini operas, even if conceived for and performed by a solo player. As for the programmes themselves, I looked for contrasts of ideas within the music and to give in each programme as wide a range of dates of composition as possible. After all, from the first Sonata in C major K279 until the final Sonata in D major K576, we travel fourteen years. It is fascinating to think of the young virtuoso Mozart in 1775, provided with all he needed for repertoire with his first six sonatas, or performing with relish in Mannheim and Paris in 1777 and 1778. Think too of the wonder of the thirteenth Sonata in B flat major K333, with its achingly beautiful Andante cantabile, written whilst in Linz in 1783, and then the perplexing power of the great C minor Sonata K457, written down in Vienna in October 1784 and its companion, the Fantasie in C minor K475, in May 1785. The turbulence, harmonic inven tion and sheer outpouring of emotion would lead any listener to wonder in what state of mind our young composer was, while the re maining sonatas from Vienna show a unique ability to express through the slenderest harmonic means the ultimate in expression. What glories then are contained in this cycle of works by Mozart? For me, they imbue the spirit with joy, laughter, sadness, contemplation, exhilaration: the challenge always is to give full life to their individual character. For the new listener, what wonderful surprises await. For the wellacquainted listener, how fortunate to return to them eager to be enchanted again.
Recorded live at Wigmore Hall, London, on 25 September 2012