10 Sonatas and a Fantasy

Klaviersonaten · Piano Sonatas
KV 279 - 283 · KV 311 · KV 330
KV 332 - 333 · KV 545 »Facile«
Fantasie · Fantasia KV 475
Friedrich Gulda
Int. Release 27 Jan. 2006
0289 477 6130 3
Gulda's sensational Mozart - First-time release of 11 new recordings

Track List

CD 1: Mozart: Piano Works

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Sonata No.10 In C Major, K.330

Piano Sonata No.12 In F, K.332

Piano Sonata No.13 In B Flat, K.333

Friedrich Gulda

Total Playing Time 1:20:01

CD 2: Mozart: Piano Works

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Sonata No.1 in C, K.279

Piano Sonata No.2 In F, K.280

Piano Sonata No.3 in B flat, K.281

Piano Sonata No.4 In E Flat, K.282


Friedrich Gulda

Total Playing Time 1:12:07

CD 3: Mozart: Piano Works

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Sonata No.5 in G, K.283

Fantasia in C Minor, K.475

Piano Sonata No.15 in C, K.545 "Facile"

Piano Sonata No.9 in D, K.311

Friedrich Gulda

Total Playing Time 1:04:29

Gulda's Mozart positively rocks, because it's mostly about rhythm . . . Gulda's unswerving, atomically steady tempi and occasionally downbeat-oriented phrasing never sound mechanical, for two reasons. One, his inner rhythm always conveys a sense of swing in that it's firmly grounded yet forward moving. Two, Gulda's left hand is his trump card. Listen anywhere, really, and notice how much variety the pianist gleans from the composers's endless Alberti basses, how he brings out important melodic elements within the figurations, or how he gets the most dramatic (as opposed to merely theatrical) mileage out of signpost bass.

. . . this is some of Gulda's most engrossing late playing -- dramatic, questing Mozart notable for its rare drive, its directness and its sense of uncompromising engagement with the music.

Er war einer der großen Mozart-Pianisten, ein Meister insbesondere der langsamen und der menuetthaften Sätze, in denen er den opernhaften Gestus dieser Musik herausarbeitete. Die schnellen Finali nahm er zuweilen in einem Tempo und mit einer Verve, die selbst einen Bösendorfer-Flügel in ein Hammerklavier verwandelten . . . Zwei Sonaten mußten aufgrund unbehebbarer technischer Mängel ausgeschieden werden. Umso hörenswerter ist der Rest. Er zeigt den unverwechselbar-kompromißlosen Gulda, der Mozart so schnörkellos verinnerlicht und bisweilen messerscharf in der Artikulation spielt, wie wir ihn in Erinnerung haben. Unbequem, aber unglaublich schön.

Er betastet den Komponisten rhythmisch streng, kraftvoll, aber stets auch mit innigster Zärtlichkeit. Jeder Ton gerät bei ihm zum Ausrufezeichen. Aus mehreren Tönen meißelt Friedrich Gulda Phrasen mit tiefster Bedeutung. Und alle Phrasen ergeben ein gigantisches Relief. Dieser Mozart ist ohne Zuckerguß. Eine Aufnahme ohne Kompromisse . . . Friedrich Guldas Interpretation ist bis heute hochmodern, ohne Puder und ohne Perücke. Sie ist der nackteste Mozart, den es derzeit zu hören gibt.

. . . Gulda überlässt nichts dem Zufall. Er geht Mozart auf den Grund, offenbart jenseits aller Schönfärberei musikalische Zusammenhänge, die andere Pianisten häufig überspielen. Und er ist sich seiner Sache so absolut sicher, dass selbst extreme Tempi zwingend logisch wirken. Klarer, deutlicher, selbstverständlicher ist diese Musik selten zu hören. Das setzt Maßstäbe.

Ein bedeutendes Dokument von Guldas Mozart-Kunst

Alles ist mit Liebe ausgehört, vieles neu gehört, wie manch erstaunlich verhaltenes Ecksatztempo oder das ornamentierte Thema des langsamen Satzes der F-Dur-Sonate KV 332. Und manifest überall die pianistische Klasse Guldas, seine Kunst des Legatospiels, vor allem aber die spirituelle Substanz, die diesen Aussteiger und Bürgerschreck zu einem der wahrhaft großen Interpreten des 20. Jahrhunderts machte.

Son intégrale des sonates de Mozart engrangée pour fêter l¿anniversaire de 1956 expose un jeu simple, relativement alerte, dégraissé mais sensible . . . D¿avoir entendu ce pianiste, beaucoup plus tardivement, jouer Prélude, choral et fugue de Franck à la radio peut nous faire dire que son jeu s¿étai libéré au soir de sa vie . . . on est au théâtre, il y a du drame, de la vie, de l¿humeur, ça chante à perdre haleine. Des sonates subversives, neuves, vivantes et indignes. Gulda a réussi là où Gould s¿était contenté de jeter du poil à gratter.

Indispensable aux fans . . .

La sublime y personalísima interpretación del ciclo mozartiano de Guida surgía por sorpresa como un regalo del más allá ... En plena comunión con lo inaprehensíble, saboreando cada nota y tarareando por lo bajo en ocasiones, Gulda nos hace disfrutar como pocas veces lo ha hecho pianista alguno, descubriendo una dimensión conmovedora, risueña, metafísica pero a la vez etérea de Mozart que hasta ahora, sólo él había podido disfrutar. ... Un presente celestial.

. . . articulaciones claras, vigor rítmico o ausencia de sentimentalismo son algunas de las características que encontramos en estas grabaciones . . .

Gulda plays Mozart sonatas

Newly discovered recordings from 1980

In February 1981, Friedrich Gulda played all Mozart's piano sonatas in the concert hall. It was the first - and last - time that he did so. He began by playing them in chronological order at three daytime concerts in Munich's Nationaltheater, later performing the cycle at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and subsequently at La Scala, Milan. And that was it.

If these appearances were regarded at the time as sensational, it was because Gulda had virtually retired from the classical concert platform during the 1970s. Following his international career as a concert pianist, he had turned to jazz, championing free jazz and a free lifestyle and wanting nothing more to do with the constraints of tie and tails or with starchy concert rituals and what he called the "damned reactionary artistic ghouls" of the classical music business. He would far rather spend his time with free jazz musicians such as Paul and Limpe Fuchs and with the percussionist Ursula Anders, founding alternative music festivals and only occasionally including classical works in the wild musical happenings of his flower-power years.

With his matinee concerts at Munich's Nationaltheater, Gulda could be said to have been making a comeback as a "serious" pianist (a term that he himself would have hated), even though he gave three evenings of improvised music at Munich's Amerika-Haus in parallel with these appearances. At the same time, these public concerts marked the beginning of a new-found love of Mozart. In an interview with the Munich Abendzeitung prior to his Munich appearances, Gulda declared that until then he had "misused Mozart by treating him as a pianist suitable only for warming up and for playing while latecomers are taking their seats. In my old age I have become conscious of this mortal sin - and have drawn the necessary consequences from it." Gulda immersed himself in Mozart in a way that he had never done before. "I've been preparing for this for a long time. I wanted to know how this music feels. I can now say that it feels marvellous. Stylistically speaking, there is no doubt about it." Until then, Beethoven and Bach had been central to his life. Now it was Mozart, with whom Gulda felt an increasing empathy. He spent his whole life working on this music. "Herr Mozart", as he affectionately called him, became his omnipresent model and guide. And towards the very end of his life, Gulda declared that when he was dead, there was nothing more he could wish than to play piano duets with Mozart on a pink cloud.

It was presumably before his concerts in Munich, Paris and Milan that Gulda recorded all of Mozart's piano sonatas. He did not do so, however, in a professional recording studio, where he disliked the atmosphere, but at the Hotel Zur Post in Weissenbach on the Attersee, east of Salzburg, where he had a holiday home and where he invited a balance engineer to join him. The hotel owned a Bösendorfer Imperial that Gulda valued highly. The building was open only during the summer months, providing the peace and quiet necessary for the recording sessions. Unlike Glenn Gould, Gulda preferred to play through works in their entirety when recording them. He banked on the natural momentum of the performance and subsequently made relatively few edits and corrections. The microphones were placed close to the instrument. Gulda preferred a sense of immediacy with little sense of the ambient space. In this way the sound became direct and almost dry but allowed a greater range of dynamics. In short, the recordings reveal an intimate atmosphere, giving the impression that Gulda is not addressing an audience but playing these Mozart sonatas for himself alone, something he did in fact do on frequent occasions. Back at home, he would leave the Revox tapes running while he was practising in his basement studio, but the results were intended only for his own private use.

Gulda must at least have considered the possibility of releasing his Mozart recordings from the Hotel Zur Post, even though nothing came of the idea. He was a procrastinator when it came to allowing existing recordings to go into production, and never more so than where Mozart was concerned. We can only speculate on the reasons for this. However natural and flawless and inspired it may have been, he always regarded his Mozart playing as a mere approximation to an ideal that was scarcely ever attainable. In the case of Mozart, it may well be true that his scruples and self-doubts were too great for him ever to be able to accept a momentary snapshot of the sonatas as a fixed and, hence, definitively valid version of these works. Perhaps, too, he was reluctant to admit to the very existence of these tapes of a complete cycle of Mozart sonatas, something that the recording industry would have given its eye-teeth to own. But with Mozart up his sleeve, he would have been able to force through other recording projects that were commercially less lucrative.

At some point, however, these tapes must have lost their importance for Gulda and he gave them to the balance engineer Hans Klement, who had been present at the recording sessions in the Hotel Zur Post. As a result they remained out of the public domain for the rest of Gulda's life. He died on 27 January 2000 - on the birthday of his idol Mozart. It is one of the ironies of his life - and possibly one that Gulda himself intended to be seen as such - that one of the most gifted Mozartians of the 20th century left hardly any Mozart recordings.

The balance engineer Hans Klement died, too, before copies of these old recordings from 1980 could resurface. Klement's wife discovered them among his papers and gave them to Gulda's son, Rico, who had been eleven when he heard his father perform these works in Munich. The original tapes are missing, presumed lost. Gulda's Mozart cycle survives only on cassettes, and it is these that were used for the present release, 25 years after the recording was made, allowing posterity to hear for the first time Mozart's Piano Sonatas from K. 279 to K. 283 performed by Friedrich Gulda. It is not a complete cycle of the Mozart sonatas. The "Dürnitz" Sonata in D major K. 284, for example, was transferred at too high a level, making it technically unpresentable, as is the A minor Sonata K. 310. Yet in spite of this, these recordings are an important document of Gulda's artistry. His interpretative hallmarks are evident at once - the motoric authority and naturalness with which he allows his fingers to pursue their unquestionable course; his choice of thrilling tempos and powerful rhythmic contrasts; the sensitivity with which he explores the slow movements; and his ability to phrase the music with cantabile smoothness.

In the 1981 interview from which we have already quoted, Gulda himself declared that he had learned a lot while preparing for this Mozart cycle: "The sonatas are private preliminary conversations leading to the operas. Everything that is here returns later on in expanded form. One senses in the sonatas how Mozart is thinking, and one observes that there are always around 100 Köchel numbers between the sonata and the opera that are the products of that thinking."

Claus Spahn