Notes and Editorial Reviews
Mozart and Schubert, the two great geniuses whose lives were troubled and short: they make a good pair here, although Hollywood-style scenarios based on this music would find it awkward that Mozart's D major Sonata shows no sign of impending tragedy, although Schubert's Fantasia in F minor is indeed a haunted piece, written in the year of his death. This also leads me to admit to a brief confusion over Chandos's booklet and jewel-case. Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier are described as playing "pianos", but two of these three works are for four hands at one instrument. To add the puzzlement, the booklet note declares that Mozart's Variations, K501, "were originally conceived as a two-piano work" and one
thinks this is an argument for this being done here until then reading that they "would lose intimacy and gain nothing" if two instruments were used and that this is "true duetwriting at its best"! So what we have is one work for two pianos and two for four hands at one.
Since the outer movements of the D major Sonata are often played powerfully, and the finale raced through, I am delighted that Lortie and Mercier instead bring to them a flexibility, finesse and charm which the recording matches in its refinement. The Andante, too, is splendidly turned. However, some listeners may find this performance too un-classical—try before purchasing if you think it may worry you. The Lortie-Mercier approach well suits the elegantly galant Variations in G major, a late work of real substance and more interesting than some other variation sets by Mozart. These artists bring to it a remarkable range of touch and texture, and although the modern piano sound is hardly 'authentic' I find their playing fascinating, not least in the penultimate variation in the minor mode.
After this, I expected much of the Schubert, and was not disappointed. The artists do not force the music expressively, but let it unfold carefully and lovingly. The full scope of its interior drama is thus revealed as it develops and for all the fine detail the overall shape is always paramount. Do try to hear this performance for yourself: it makes one fall in love with the music all over again. This is magisterial duo playing, of impeccable judgement and unanimity.
-- Gramophone [7/1993]
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