Benjamin Hochman continued his public recital series of Mozart’s Piano Sonatas this past Saturday afternoon at Bard’s Laszlo Building. Hochman played from memory.
In the prolific spring of 1774 in Salzburg Mozart had performed two-hand piano sonatas with his sister Maria, nicknamed” Nannerl,” from whom at the age of four Mozart began to learn piano. Young Mozart often wrote pieces with friends or family in mind. Hochman opened with Piano Sonata No. 2 in F major, K. 280 (1774). After Salzburg, Mozart travelled without his sister to Munich where he quickly composed six piano sonatas.
The opening Allegro dramatizes a dialogue between left and right hand. The left hand appears to query, while the right-hand answers at length; the left hand appears to be male, the right female. The questions of the leftt hand appear to be naïve and innocent while the right-hand answers are cheerfully forthright and instructive. The Adagio presents a rather melancholy meditation. My speculation is that Mozart at eighteen recalls his most early days of learning the piano with his older sister; the melancholy strain dramatizes his current separation from her. The delightful concluding Presto brims with charm, perhaps remembering happy childhood escapades with his sister. Hochman ably caught that carefree zest and innocent delight of childhood memories.
Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330 (1783) presents a much more mature Mozart. Among pianists there is a great variety of interpretation on how to perform this piece, especially the role of recapitulation. Some pianists shorten and some lengthen the work—the opening Allegro being anywhere from five to nine minutes; Hochman clocked six minutes. Likewise, performances of the somber Andante in F major vary from five to nine minutes; Hochman clocked at six. The concluding Allegretto might be from three to five minutes; Hochman clocked at five minutes. In bestowing an aura of more symmetry on this sonata, Hochman created a more classical atmosphere and tighter elegance that offered crystal aesthetic clarity.
After brief break, Hochman played Adagio for Piano in B minor, K. 540 (1788) where the question of repeats once more occurs. Mozart rarely explores B minor. Here performances vary from amputated five-and-a-half minutes to a languorous twelve minutes; Hochman clocked at ten minutes which allowed for lyric recapitulations without tedium—a sensible performance that avoided excess where the recapitulations are pleasant and light rather than laborious. The recapitulations exuded lively charm.
Piano Sonata No. 15 in F major, K. 533 (1788) concluded the recital. While this work usually clocks at twenty-three minutes, Hochman clocked at twenty-two, which may be perceived as perhaps a rather too austere version. The opening Allegro displayed a clean fluidity, yet it was the more meditative with dramatic serenity in the Andante (B-flat major) where Hochman most excelled. There was real suspense and deep lyricism without artificiality.
This recital explored Mozart as more introverted and reflective than may be commonly thought as Mozart mostly dwelt in F major and B minor. Hochman clearly caught Mozart’s pensive profile as he glanced in the mirror of his soul. Hochman will present the full cycle of Mozart Piano Sonatas at the Israel Conservatory in September.