MOZART: Sonatas K570, K282 & K333

Geoffrey Lancaster (fortepiano)’

Tall Poppies TP260

reviewed by Neville Cohn

As I listened to fortepianist Geoffrey Lancaster’s recently released compact disc recording devoted to three of Mozart’s keyboard sonatas, I wondered how some of my colleagues would respond to his approach to these works. For those for whom a strict, unwavering beat (apart from a rit at the end of this or that section of the work) is a non-negotiable requirement, Lancaster’s recordings could well trigger apoplectic responses from those unable – or unwilling – to accept that these sonatas are presented in a way that was standard practice during the composer’s lifetime and for a long time afterwards.

Lancaster playing Mozart in Hong Kong last year

As a young grand-pupil of Lili Kraus, I accepted without question that, in Mozart or Haydn,  a steady beat, with hands strictly co-ordinated, was de rigueur throughout. This is ever present in the Mozart recordings of, say, Walter Gieseking whose performances were – and still are for millions of listeners – considered the last word in the way to play the works of the Salzburg master. I’d like to think, though, that even this very great artist, after careful consideration, might have conceded – at least in part –  the validity of Lancaster’s revivifying approach to Mozart.

I hope these recordings receive a very wide listenership. They deserve it. In his retrieval of near-forgotten historic performing modes, Lancaster’s offerings warrant the highest praise and the widest listenership. This compact disc is a compendium of marvels. Even the least important succession of notes is treated with utmost care and, always, infused with beauty of tone and expression.

These performances are a joy from first note to last. I look forward very much to Lancaster’s recordings of more of Mozart’s sonatas – each one prefaced by what comes across as if it were an on-the-spot extemporisation by the soloist, a procedure that was standard practice at the time Mozart’s sonatas were being written.

As ever, Lancaster’s liner notes are a joy to read. They ought to be required reading by anyone preparing a Mozart piano work for performance.

I am certain that I am not the only listener looking forward with great anticipation to Lancaster’s next recording of the keyboard sonatas of Mozart.