THE GULDA MOZART TAPES II

W. A. MOZART

THE GULDA MOZART TAPES II
6 Sonatas

Klaviersonaten · Piano Sonatas
KV 284 · KV 310 · KV 331
KV 457 · KV 570 · KV 576
Friedrich Gulda
Int. Release 03 Sep. 2007
2 CDs / Download
0289 477 7152 4


Track List

CD 1: Mozart: Piano Sonatas KV 284, 310 & 331

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 331

2.
6:27

Piano Sonata No.6 in D, K.284 "Dürnitz"

4.
7:10

Piano Sonata No. 8 in A Minor, K. 310

9.
3:11

Friedrich Gulda

Total Playing Time 1:12:52

CD 2: Mozart: Piano Sonatas KV 457, 570 & 576

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Minor, K. 457

2.
7:50

Piano Sonata No.16 in B flat, K.570

4.
8:36

5.
9:52

6.
4:05

Piano Sonata No.17 in D, K.576

7.
5:38

8.
5:04

9.
4:25

Friedrich Gulda

Total Playing Time 57:20

Each performances attests to Gulda's persuasive inner rhythm and sense of "swing" that prevent his unswervingly steady tempi from sounding the least bit mechanical. The slow movements dance as well as sing, while witty ornaments stylishly and tastefully decorate repeated passages and echoed phrases. As a result, the long variation movements of K331 and K284 bristle with character and command your attention.

. . . Gulda¿s playing . . . is effortlessly musical throughout. Particularly impressive are the two minor-key sonatas, with the maestoso marking of K. 310¿s first movement conveyed without a hint of portentousness, and the outer movements of the C minor K. 457 as intense as you could wish for. Gulda¿s limpid playing in the slow movements is a constant pleasure . . . Gulda offers playing of rare insight, without a hint of self-conscious poetry.

. . . der Ton [bleibt] immer erbarmungslos durchsichtig und konturiert . . . eine geradezu schwärmerische Ausdrucksintensität . . . ein Mozart-Bild von großer Konsequenz . . . sein Mozart-Spiel, irdisch-unverzärtelt und doch überirdisch klar.

Tatsächlich ist Guldas Interpretation der Mozartsonaten von ganz eigener Güte. Sein trockener, herber Anschlag, sein weitestgehender Verzicht auf Pedaleinsatz und seine knappen Phrasierungen zeigen ihn hier als einen Künstler, der Mozart ohne gekünstelte Brillanz aufzuführen weiß. Gleich zu Beginn fasziniert Gulda in der Sonate KV 457 mit einer Mischung aus Dichte, Konzentriertheit und entspannter Nebensächlichkeit, die auch für die anderen Einspielungen der CDs symptomatisch ist. Die auf komprimiertem Raum lakonisch dargebotenen Phrasen scheinen in ihrer Natürlichkeit bezwingend logisch. Er geht sparsam mit Dynamikwechseln um und kann dadurch mit einigen wenigen Akzenten sehr viel mehr erreichen als manch anderer Pianist. Die Sonate KV570 klingt bei ihm hell und klar. Durch Guldas feines Gespür für Rhythmus bekommt das Stück einen ganz besonderen Fluss und eine swingende Leichtigkeit. Vorschläge formuliert er mit Beiläufigkeit und ohne viel Aufhebens . . . Gulda [erstaunt] den Hörer hier mit einer fast schon liebevoll zärtlichen Behandlung des tonalen Materials, die man so nicht von ihm erwartet hat. Dies zeigt sich besonders im zweiten Satz, den Gulda mit sehr viel Ruhe und Geduld ausmusiziert. Die bekannte Sonate KV 331 trägt in seiner Interpretation ähnlich sanfte Züge. Auch hier konzentriert sich Gulda auf das Wesentliche, verzichtet auf effektvolle Tempo- oder Dynamikwechsel. Dafür bleibt er immer kammermusikalisch klein im Ton, hebt nur selten etwas lauter hervor und lässt die Oberstimme führen. Er scheint weniger um Originalität bemüht als vielmehr eine ernsthafte Auseinandersetzung mit der Mozartschen Musik im Zwiegespräch mit dem Notentext zu suchen.

. . . und wieder kann man nur staunen über die gemeißelte Authentizität, die orchestrale Pracht, den pulsierenden Swing von Guldas Mozart-Architekturen, die auch nach 25 Jahren um keinen Tag gealtert sind und alles aktuelle Mozart-Gesäusel in die Grauzone des Unerheblichen verweisen . . . Gulda hat diesen so entscheidenden Zug des Augenblicklichen, diese Theaterhaltung, dieses diskontinuierliche Seelen-Labyrinth als einziger auch in den Klaviersonaten Mozarts aufgespürt und mit unbestechlicher Geradlinigkeit, dramatischem Furor und wenn nötig auch mit zärtlichster Sensibilität in Klang gesetzt. Das ist die faszinierende Erkenntnis dieser neuerlichen zweistündigen Mozart-Beschwörung und eine weiter schallende Ohrfeige für die heutige Klavier-Szene. Die Klangqualität . . . [ist] erstaunlich gut . . .

Harsch ist Guldas Zugriff, viril, körperbetont, treibend, drängend und noch in den langsamen Sätzen von einer unbeugsamen Strenge, was die Spannung, den Bogen des Ganzen betrifft. Keine Rührseligkeiten! Nichts Verlogenes! Bloß keinen Singsang! -- ruft dieses Spiel . . . Aufwühlende Kontraste. Raue, griffige Klangfakturen.

Der tontechnische Transfer zur CD-Premiere ist bei den "Mozart Tapes II" erstaunlich gut gelungen . . . Abgesehen davon hat Friedrich Gulda die Sonate je wie ein stringentes Kontinuum interpretiert. Er spielt vorausblickend, übernimmt mit Gelassenheit die sublim dekorierten Diskurse (ohne virtuose Verblendungen) und freut sich an deren intensiv empfundener Schönheit. Transparenz und ein rhythmisches Optimalmass sind ihm wichtig, wobei er auf eine prekäre Balance von Konzept und Klang achtet . . . Diese (Wieder-) Veröffentlichungen bestätigen, dass Friedrich Gulda ein profund gebildeter Pianist war und "einfach ein grosser Musiker"; wie sogar sein sehr skeptischer Kritiker Franz Endler zugeben musste. Diese Gulda-Zyklen sollten deshalb in keiner klassischen Basisdiskothek fehlen.

Die zweite Folge der "Mozart tapes" bestätigt den Ausnahmerang Friedrich Guldas als Interpret seines Landsmanns. Gulda hat es in diesen Aufnahmen aus dem Jahre 1982 nicht mehr nötig, den Exzentriker zu mimen. Gleichermaßen Abstand haltend von den Extremen der verzärtelten Empfindsamkeit wie der virtuosen Mechanik schlägt er in seinem rhythmisch ungemein lebendigen Spiel den goldenen Mittelweg ein: Sein Mozart klingt locker wo nötig . . . aber auch energisch, ja streng herausgemeißelt; andererseits . . . wunderbar ruhig und mit atmender Gelassenheit deklamiert.


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
01/2006