REVIEWS: divine art dda 21227   Mozart: Piano Sonatas

CD cover 21227

THE CLASSICAL REVIEWER:
Pianist Diana Boyle was born in London and educated at St Paul's Girls' School and as a Foundation Scholar at the Royal College of Music. In 1970 she continued her studies under Enrique Barenboim in Tel Aviv and, in 1973, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study with Artur Balsam in New York.

After making her London recital debut in 1979 she gave concerts in the USA, Canada, Spain, Portugal and England. She also taught piano and chamber music in London and in the USA. In 1987, Diana Boyle was invited to make a series of recordings for National Public Radio in Boston, including performances of the Bach Partitas. In 1990 Diana Boyle returned to the Bach Partitas, recording this time at Forde Abbey in Dorset, England for Integra Records.

Since then Diana Boyle has recorded Bach's Well Tempered Clavier Book 2 for Metier (MSVCD 2002) and Bach's Art of Fugue for Divine Art (dda 25097). Now from Divine Art Recordings comes a 2 CD release of piano sonatas by Mozart.

Diana Boyle opens Disc 1 with Mozart's Piano Sonata in C major, K.279 providing a lovely clarity to the Allegro , assisted enormously by the wonderfully clear and detailed recording. She brings the feeling of discovery, new delights at every turn, wonderfully phrased, finding new ways to explore this music. There is a quite exquisite, thoughtful Andante , intimate in its gentle delicate beauty and a wonderfully, finely pointed, rhythmic Allegro , again beautifully shaped and often with a rather nonchalant spring to her playing, finding many little details.

The Allegro of the Piano Sonata in G major, K.283 brings a wonderfully intimate performance with a lovely flow, finely phrased with some exquisite little details where every note is finely shaped. The Andante slowly reveals Mozart's well constructed phrases with a beautifully judged tempo, finding every nuance. There is a terrific rhythmic spring to the Presto yet observing every little variation of tempo and dynamic. There are passages of fine Mozartian forward drive but always with terrific clarity before a wonderful conclusion to this sonata.

Diana Boyle brings a jewel like, delicate purity to the Allegro moderato of the Piano Sonata in C major, K.330. Such clarity allows every little turn and harmonic shift to be clearly heard. There is a gloriously drawn Andante cantabile with this pianist finding a subtly poignant emotion as she very slowly reveals Mozart's lovely creation. Finally there is a nice, crisp Allegretto with some finely done left hand phrases, wonderfully fluent yet with a clear and crisp rhythm.

Boyle brings some fine dramatic phrases to launch the Molto allegro of the Piano Sonata in C minor, K.457, her clarity and purity still adding so much, a lovely delicate fluency with some richer textures at times. The Adagio of this sonata is probably the slowest and most idiosyncratic of all, often stretching Mozart's ideas to the extreme, yet revealing so much in its beautifully shaped form, almost as though the composer is sitting at the piano trying out ideas. It certainly builds a mesmerising intensity. The Allegro assai picks up a fine tempo with some wonderfully fluent phrases, rolling forward through passages that are finely shaped and phrased with a rubato, before finding some moments of quiet repose before the coda.

Disc: 2 opens with the Piano Sonata in B flat major, K.281 and an Allegro that brings a forward rolling fluency before picking up Mozart's lovely rhythmic theme. There is such exquisite care of dynamics and phrasing and again that pin point clarity. This pianist brings an nicely shaped opening to the Andante amoroso , Boyle finding every little detail with terrific phrasing and dynamics, soon finding a gentle flow with subtle little variations of rhythm and tempo. The Rondeau: Allegro has a lovely tempo, never rushed, allowing Mozart's every detail to emerge.

Diana Boyle carefully develops the Adagio of the Piano Sonata in E flat major, K.282, slowly gaining in tempo to achieve a wonderfully crystalline flow. Menuetto I has a lovely rhythmic skip, Boyle's light touch bringing a rather special quality, clear and crisp. Menuetto II achieves more of a flow yet still with some quite lovely rhythmic variations. The Allegro has a good forward moving flow with some fine harmonies revealed by this pianist.

The Rondo, K.494 was first performed alone in 1786, whereas the Allegro and Andante, K.533 followed in 1788. Mozart joined the pieces with an expanded K.494 to form the Piano Sonata in F major. The Allegro (K.533) has a faltering rising and falling flow, this pianist finding some lovely phrases with passages of increased dynamic contrast. The Andante (K.533) slowly reveals passages of fine beauty as this pianist slowly develops this exquisite movement with some most lovely phrases as she teases out many lovely Mozartian ideas. She concluded with a crisp, rhythmically pointed Rondeau: Allegretto (K.494) bringing a wonderful clarity with a lovely subtle, delicate flow, revealing this to be a real jewel.

The Allegro of the Piano Sonata in B flat major, K.570 has a lovely slow introduction before finding a rhythmic poise with this pianist's phrasing, use of dynamics and varied tempi revealing so many lovely facets. She brings gravity to the Adagio , each note carefully considered with moments of light and gentle rhythmic bounce, quite exquisitely done. She brings her really fine crisp and buoyant playing to the Allegretto with some lovely left hand phrases.  

Diana Boyle breathes fresh life into these sonatas. It is true that occasionally her approach is rather idiosyncratic but always supremely musical. Those who expect their Mozart to be more muscular will want to look elsewhere but for me this is not what these sonatas are about. These fine performances take a welcome place on my shelves. 

She receives an excellent recording full of detail and presence, with her piano tone perfectly caught. There are notes in the form of an interview with the pianist.
Bruce Reader

THE CHRONICLE:
This came out in May and it's been played a lot — it's very relaxing on Press day as deadlines loom — and we assumed we'd given it a glowing review. Oops, sadly not.

It's a lovely CD. Boyle makes the music sound fresh yet soothing. As with much gentle solo piano music of a certain ilk, it put us in mind of Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations ; in this case it's particularly apt given the fragility of the music and her use of silence. In the sleeve notes she says she did not listen to other people's performances of the sonatas, with the exception of Gould, she favouring his iconoclastic approach. Like Gould, Boyle dislikes “pianism”, saying the music is more important than flashy playing, and this collection has a simplicity that probably reflects this. She also approaches her pieces as music, not just rows of notes written down on paper.

Mozart wrote these sonatas in the 1770s when the piano was in its infancy, which possibly explains why her understated approach works, and she says in the notes that the music is too fragile for the piano.

There doesn't seem much point in listing the pieces, which are all piano sonatas and identifiable only by the Köchel number. You don't really pay heed to the tracks anyway, as the sound is similar and you will listen to the album all the way through. There appears to be recognition of this fact in the sleeve notes, which take the form of an interview with Boyle about her approach to playing the pieces rather than detailed analysis. It's Mozart, played well: what more do you need to know?
This double CD is out now on Divine Art, dda21227.
Jeremy Condliffe

AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE:
Boyle's interpretations are highly idiosyncratic, and may be of interest to people looking for something a little less run of the mill. Her unique playing draws attention to unobvious textures and fascinating harmonies, but while I did find her interpretations refreshing, the recording is not to my liking.

Her tempos are unpredictable and tend towards the slow, deliberate side. Loud stresses are her forte, apparent in I of Sonata 10. It has plenty of clarity, but her phrasing suffers. The tempo is much slower than is appropriate for an allegro moderato. The andante movement crawls closer to an adagio. Sonata 3 makes every single note clear, but the way those notes figure into the large whole of the work often makes them sound disjointed. It is lyrical, but so very slow. I also question whether the tempo choices produce effective contrasts between movements.
Sang Woo Kang