“Beethoven took Wolfgang’s theme and began to improvise. … A torrent of astounding music filled the room ….”
—Marcia Davenport (from Mozart)
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the first meeting of the two geniuses. Both writing in the “Classical period,” Beethoven just seventeen, Mozart with four years of life remaining, yet, even though they shared a common means of expression, their music was (and remains) as different as their outlook on the human experience.
Jenö Jandó’s 1989 disc (recorded at the Italian Institute in Budapest, March 3-5) remains a “should have” rather than a “must have,” because at that point in his career (then 37) he brings much of Beethoven’s early anger and bravado to a wide-ranging Mozart program that many other “senior” pianists couldn’t unravel until they’d experienced enough of music and life to fully appreciate that “less is more.” A fine example of that occurred at the 2004 Singapore International Piano Festival during Paul Badura-Skoda’s impassioned reading of the C Minor Fantasia. (cross-reference below)
For his part Jandó plays K. 475 in a vertical, overly contrasted manner that produces more grumbles than grief; more piety than poise. Still, from both performer and NAXOS’ production team, the ethereal score is beautifully realized technically.
Next up is the C Minor Sonata whose opening “Allegro” flies out of the gate at such a clip that the second subject is forced into impatience rather than calm. The development fares best but suffers slightly (as is common throughout the disc) from Jandó’s penchant for treating repeated thematic notes as equals, robbing them of a subtlety that is magically harvested by such colleagues as Murray Perahia. The coda holds promise but is a florin short of a magical adieu.
The “Andante” is the best of the bunch with a compelling warmth and delicious low register, which, coupled with excellent voicing, lets the listener savour the near-Pathétique thematic links with equal reverence.
The opening of the “Molto Allegro” is notable for its attractive lilt, but soon succumbs to the brittle approach that gives the music more edge than necessary. Then—at the first return—Jandó inserts just the right amount of “hesitato,” producing a moment of sublimity, permitting the music to speak differently. Much more, please. Soon, the modulation sequence thunders all around the keyboard, providing the most drama of the recital. All the more reason, then, to temper the turmoil which follows by whispering the secrets instead of blurting out their truth.
K. 331 has much to admire, its opening movement bursting with happiness and joy as the variations unfold. The fifth of these is especially well controlled and the “Finale’s” exuberance a welcome pleasure.
The “Menuetto” lacks breath and features too many rapid-fire notes, but just in time, Mozart steps in and pens one of the most soothing trios in the repertoire, bringing Jandó under his spell, who responds with aplomb.
The famous Alla Turca can’t get off of its stilts, suffering from 16ths that are too mannered and tempi that would have the troops in revolt.
But then, more magic: The “Twinkle twinkle little star” variations astonish from stem to stern and show Jandó ready to become an important pianist once he allows rather than forces Mozart to speak. These deceptively “easy” variants each evoke a different thought or feeling. Here’s what came to mind: I – happily busy; II – energetically industrious; III – jaunty; IV – sturdy and varied; V – “hide ‘n seek” semplice; VI - effervescence to burn; VII – scaling the heights from a solid base; VIII – polyphonic perfection; IX – carefree contrast; X – near melodramatic presentation; XI – “bend and stretch” done to a turn; XII – “Invitation to the Finale” - scurries home after an incredible journey.
Be sure to snap up a copy and describe for yourself! JWR