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CD Feature/ Viviana Sofronitzki: "Mozart - Piano Concertos"

img  Tobias

Vivana Sofronitzki is not the only daughter of a famous musician, but she is one of the few who neither abused this status to her advantage, nor suffered from its mighty shadow. Even though Vladimir Sofronitzki’s posthumous fame has somehow withered in the “West” when compared to, say, Emil Gilels, he is still treasured as a national hero in his native Russia, where the very same Gilels at the time considered him the greatest pianist in the word. Viviana, meanwhile has succesfuly managed to carve out a niche of her own, keeping both the artistic and economic aspects of her career firmly in her own two hands: All of her recordings, even her own website are organised entirely by herself and she plays on instruments tailor-made for her renowned instrument maker Paul McNulty. Consequently, this world premiere box set of Mozart’s complete works for keyboard and orchestra on nothing but historical instruments carries her handwriting from top to bottom.

Which is no mean feat considering that she is joined and supported by the Early Instrument Ensemble of the Warsaw Chamber Opera on these eleven discs, an institution within the repertoire and an orchestra with an experience spanning over fifty years of recording and performing (and whose director Stefan Sutkowski provided the generous financial support of the project). So the question really isn’t whether or not this combination will work or if there is any need in releasing yet another heavy-weight collection of Mozart, but rather what Viviana is capable of adding to the many grandiose recordings out there. To this end, compare the K.415 C major Concerto (No 13) from this set, for example, to the version taped by Swiss newcomer Salome Scheidegger at the Tonhalle Zürich (taken from her upcoming album “zart”). While Scheidegger’s interpretation is deeply romantic and culled up in whispers, Sofronitzki takes a more robust, lively, earthy and zesty approach. Of course, she is bound by her instrument, a McNulty replica of the Anton Walter fortepiano, which by its very nature doesn not have an ethereal character to it. But in her very essence, she is less of a dreamer than a “maker” anyway, relying on the expressive possibilities offered to her by her technique and playing the fast movements even faster, while allowing the slow movements to simmer gently. Through her engagement in chamber music, she has developed an ear for a dialogue between the orchestra and herself, resulting in tight and spontaneous action. You can pick any of these CDs from the sclipcase and you will hear that fresh and thirsty air of wanting to inject new life into the music.

The sound of the recordings will not be to everybody’s liking, with its somewhat bright string section. But the warm brass cushion this nicely, with the directness and transparency of the aural picture complementing the interpretation. Sofronitzki has brought these concertos back from fluffy heaven down to earth, but – after all – Mozart himself was no stranger to earthly pleasures and knew that this did not have to be a disadvantage. Quite obviously, this is nothing for the occasional listener. But anyone with a keen interest in original practise and a desire to hear these pieces in a vivid chambermusical splendour should take note. Her father, for one, would have been proud of her.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Order the Box Set at Euromusica
Homepage: Viviana Sofronitzki
Homepage: Warsaw Chamber Opera

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