At a total of 10 works, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music
for two pianos and for piano four hands represents a very
small percentage of his keyboard output, but it is
nonetheless significant. “Music for Two Pianos,
Piano Duets” is a two-CD set released under the Philips
label. At a running time of just under two and one-half
hours, these two discs contain all of Mozart’s compositions
for this genre which have survived. They were recorded
between 1971 and 1978, and are part of the
“Complete Mozart Edition” of 1991.
As with other genres of works by Mozart (1756-1791),
these pieces span a good part of his compositional career,
beginning with the “Sonata in C for Piano Duet K19D” of
1765 and ending with the “Sonata in C for Piano Duet K521”
from 1787. The earliest pieces are naturally very “facile,”
demonstrating the technical competence, if not the genius
of his mature works. As such, I found the aforementioned
“Sonata K19D” and the “Two Piano, Four Hands Sonatas
K381 and K358,” completed between 1772 and 1774,
to be “nice and pleasant,” but neither engaging nor compelling.
I immediately recognized the opening bars of the
“Sonata in D for Two Pianos K448.” However, I don’t
believe it displays the sheer mastery found in Mozart’s
later four-hand piano music from 1786-1787, such as the
“Sonata in F for Piano Duet K497″ or the “Sonata for Piano
Duet in C K521,” as well as his “Andante and Five
Variations in G for Piano Duet K501.” To my ears, these
three pieces are his greatest works for this configuration.
Despite the advantages obtained from a note perspective
by using four hands instead of the usual two, I don’t feel
that Mozart’s four-hand music is equal to the greatest
of his two-hand Sonatas.
Of course, these are solid performances of these works
from Ingrid Haebler (1926 – ) and Ludwig Hoffmann
(1925-1999), as would be expected from all of the
participants on this huge Philips set, but I didn’t find
them to be at the level of Mitsuko Uchida’s (1948 – )
performances of the complete “Mozart Sonatas,”
a five-CD set also released by Philips.
I should mention that the set I heard also included
a reconstruction by Paul Badura-Skoda (1927 – ) of
Mozart’s “Larghetto and Allegro in E Flat for Two Pianos,
which he performed with Jörg Demus (1928 – ).
This handsome box set includes the usual accompanying
booklet with essays in four languages, photos and
engravings, making it a nice purchase for Mozart