Mozart Pianists: Walter Klein
convince everybody, and I dare say that my approach to the music will evolve over the next two years.
To begin with, though, I want to listen to a Mozart performer who I love. Walter Klein was not someone I knew, actually. As I started to collect lists of pianists who had recorded complete Mozart Piano Sonatas, his name came up and I started listening, and was hooked. There is so much in his approach to Mozart that I admire and want to recreate in my own way. His Mozart is full of extroverted characters, obvious phrasing, and colorful textures. To get a sense of this, I thought I would focus on the Sonata which I'm learning this month: #1, K 279 in C Major.
You can hear nearly everything that I love in Klein's playing in the first few lines:
Overall, the thing I like about Walter Klein's Mozart playing is that he doesn't aim for delicate consistency. Many pianists underplay the variety that is in Mozart's scores, like they're apologizing. Klein does not. The first measure of the last system on the second page is quirky, the grace notes snappy and tempo rushing, before he returns to a melodic texture. Everything has shape and articulation, and those shapes are not even, smooth and rounded.
The Development of the first movement does not have quite the variety I'd have expected. The sequential elements are often played with the same momentum, rather than each measure phrased internally, as well as having a specific role in the entire sequential shape. But perhaps this is intentional; he's letting the harmonies speak for themselves. It's like this Development section is no-man's-land, harmonic anarchy, and such phrasing would be out of place without a tonal hierarchy. After all, he makes much of the harmonic differences in the recapitulation, where even in the first theme (bottom of the 3rd page), Mozart is making creative changes.
I've always found the second movement of this Sonata to be very awkward. The fortes and pianos seem rather arbitrarily placed (i.e. 3rd system, page 9), and many sections seem to disregard the time signature entirely (i.e. last two systems of page 9). But the phrasing taken by Klein makes the movement make sense. Nothing is very extreme here, the dynamics, nor the rubato. But he uses enough create phrases that have internal logic, and thus, the whole movement seems to make sense.
The finale begins with a typical 4-measure phrase. The second phrase begins with the same thematic material, but ends up as a 6-measure phrase. Klein makes this phrase sound normal by playing M. 7-8 exactly the same, rather than cheapening the repeated measure with hackneyed trick like the echo effect. M. 11-18, to contrast, is a typical 8 measure phrase, except it sounds uneven: Mozart fills these measures with nearly sequential material, except he always changes something: compare M. 13 and M. 15. Or take M. 12 and M. 14, which are sequential, vs. M. 16 which begins the same, but takes a new turn. In these instances, Klein plays up the subtle melodic shifts so that this typical phrase seems asymmetrical. Because his left hand is prominent, the extra quarter note on beat 2 of M. 16 makes the shifty composing unmistakable. Ignore left hands at your own peril!
Consider Klein's treatment of the repeated note motive in the second theme: measures 23, 25 and 27 each have repeated notes but each instance is treated differently in terms of dynamic and rhythmic drive. Nothing is monotonous, even though it looks monotonous on the page. This, in short, is what I love about Walter Klein's Mozart playing. It's full of vitality and variety, and perfectly encapsulates the operatic elements that I wrote about on August 6th.
"Modern performers seem to regard their performances as texts rather than acts, and to prepare for them with the same goal as present-day textual editors: to clear away accretions. Not that this is not a laudable and necessary step; but what is an ultimate step for an editor should be only a first step for a performer, as the very temporal relationship between the functions of editing and performing already suggests." -Richard Taruskin, Text and Act