Christian Blackshaw, Wigmore Hall, London
By Andrew Clark, Financial Times *****
Mozart’s piano sonata in A K.331 begins with a nursery rhyme-type theme which even those immune to classical music might recognise. On it is based an elaborate set of variations that only a mind of Mozart’s creative ingenuity could sustain. The challenge facing the interpreter is to carry the music through these quasi-repetitious elaborations without letting it sound banal. It is a measure of Christian Blackshaw’s complete identification with this strand of Mozart’s genius that these Andante grazioso variations – like so much else in Blackshaw’s recital, the last of his widely toured Mozart sonata cycle – had an intensity and concentration that generated unstoppable momentum.
Inherited wisdom tells us that Mozart’s 18 sonatas are either the product of an infant prodigy’s improvisatory whirls or a set of pedagogical exercises inhibited by classical form. More than half a century ago the great Lili Kraus told us otherwise. Now, in an equally sui generis bolt from the blue, Blackshaw has done something similar.
While not exactly turning Mozart into a Sturm und Drang composer, he showed in Saturday’s recital that the sonatas’ intricately worked-out forms and deceptively simple melodies are suffused with temperament and feeling. On that score alone, this series represents a landmark in London’s appreciation of this music.