Mozart: Piano Sonatas 10-12 - Wessel
Ars Produktion ARS 38 332
Classical - Instrumental
Mozart: Piano Sonatas 10-12
Michael Wessel (piano)
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - October 6, 2022
Is the German pianist, Michael Wessel, one of those coveted players who can lift Mozart’s sonatas out of the ordinary? Listening to this recording it struck me that he indeed is someone who can.
Doing some research on the internet I came across an article in the Nordbayerischer Kurier (20/03/2017) in which Wessel admitted that “Als Student etwa hatte ich große Probleme mit Mozart” (as a student, I had big problems with Mozart). Asked by his piano teacher why, Wessel said that he had always thought of Mozart being “ein Spieldosenkomponist mit Klimperbegleitung” (a music box composer with ramshackle accompaniment). Whereupon his teacher, greatly dismayed, said: “then we will start with Mozart”.
We may argue to what extent this has contributed to Michael Wessel becoming something of a Mozart guru, fact is that from that moment on he discovered that these sonatas were so much more than ‘Spieldosenmusik’; that Mozart's genius was able to express heights and depths, or, as he said: “Ein Mozart mit Abgründen”. That must have been his inspiration for his previous Mozart release (2015 RBCD Animato label) entitled ‘Mozart in Moll’ (in minor). This first release in High Definition, however, pertains to another emotional side of Mozart, the poetical dimension: ‘Mozart the Poet’.
Wessel’s position as a piano teacher (to be precise: Professor of Piano, Song Interpretation, and Methodology) at the University of Church Music in Bayreuth, becomes clear in the extensive liner notes, describing each of the three sonatas played in mixed order 12,10,11: Narration (KV330), Poem (KV331), Opera (KV332). But not only in the description does the Master show himself, in the magically colourful readings one senses the hand(s) of an instructor, too.
I noticed that perhaps of an unintentional aversion to producing ‘spieldosenmusik’, precision and articulation, lending dramatic weight, is carefully, even thoughtfully contrasted with playful and joyous expression, whilst adding in places intimate, songlike ornamentations. It gives these well-known sonatas a new lease of life. This is ‘Mozart in Dur’ (major) with lots of hidden poetry and romance.
These sonatas are, as we all know, not without competition, but Wessel does add a generous amount of emotion as well as - and to be expected from a piano teacher - much fine-tuned precision. I for one have hugely enjoyed these renditions. Summing it all up in a few words, his pupils may be proud of him.
One more thing though. Inside the cover page, it says: ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sämtliche Klaviersonaten, Michael Wessel’. Elsewhere I have seen that this current release is Volume 4 but there is no mention of it in the accompanying booklet. Nor is there any mention of it on the website of Professor Wessel. If there were to be more, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Edit: From direct inquiries, I’ve now learned that all Sonatas and variations will be recorded and released without volume number, but rather in accordance with and entitled to subject. The next release is scheduled for the beginning of next year when the following release will be recorded. Something to look forward to!
And the sound? A warm Bösendorfer grand, captured brilliantly by Manfred Schumacher in the Kulturzentrum Immanuel in Wuppertal, Germany.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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