In his lifetime Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart was better known as a virtuoso pianist than a composer. And for good reason. As a performer, he was judged on the merits of his own talent. As a composer, he was always compared to his father, Wolfgang Amadeus.
As a result, F.X. Mozart virtually ceased composing in his thirties. Only now is his music being evaluated on its own merits. This release presents Mozart’s piano sonata and an assortment of shorter piano works.
The Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 10 is a major work with a playing time of about 25 minutes. To my ears, this four-movement sonata strongly resembles those of Clementi. The texture is light, with scales and arpeggiated chords being the primary building blocks.
And yet there’s a difference. Some of the phrasings are deliberately irregular, playing on the listener’s expectations. Mozart was only 16 when he wrote the sonata, and there’s a youthful lighthearted feel to it.
Mozart spent time in Poland and published four collections of polonaises. The Polonaises mélancoliques Op. 22 were composed when Mozart was in his thirties. The writing is much more sophisticated and, I think, more interesting. Each of the polonaises adheres to the traditional 3/4 pattern of the dance. And yet each is very different in character.
Mozart uses thick harmonies to color his melodies, effectively shifting their emotional content. Are they as good as Chopin’s? Not quite — but they do point the way.
Katarzyna Drogosz performs admirably, subtly phrasing and shaping the music in interesting ways. I’m especially impressed as she’s playing on an 1800 fortepiano, an instrument with markedly less responsiveness than a modern piano. Nevertheless, Drogosz plays with elegance and executing runs and trills with a delicate touch.
A well-executed program of music by a composer overshadowed by his heritage.
Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart: Rondos, Sonata, Polonaises, Variations
Katarzyna Drogosz; fortepiano