October 2006

Mozart - Fantasias and Rondos
Richard Egarr, fortepiano
Harmonia Mundi USA HMU 907387
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Richard Freed

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Except for the Australian Eloquence CD reissues of Peter Maag’s Decca recordings of orchestral material, I can’t imagine any release during this Mozart year being more valuable in its specified area than this imaginative collection of keyboard works. Among the 12 items (by no means limited to fantasias and rondos) are the familiar rondos in D major and A minor and the Fantasy in D minor, but the rest is for the most part quite unfamiliar. Included are the Minuet in D and the Little Gigue in G, which became the opening movements of Tchaikovsky’s orchestral suite Mozartiana; a March in C, better known in Mozart’s own orchestral version; the stunningly imaginative Prelude and Fugue in C major; and the otherworldly beautiful Adagio in C, originally composed for glass harmonica. At the other end of the emotional spectrum is the sly Marcia funebre del Sigr. Maestro Contrapunto (whose Koechel number is transposed in the track listing from 453a to 354a, the only apparent flaw in this handsome production).

Richard Egarr, whom we’ve known primarily as a harpsichordist, selected and edited these pieces, and he plays them with compelling intensity, understanding and sheer brilliance on a fortepiano built in Brno some 14 years after the composer’s death. It suits this music down to the ground, as the splendid recording makes abundantly clear. Egarr’s own booklet annotation, brief but meaty, is a further asset. "The hypnotic journey through the strange landscape of the Rondo in A minor," he writes, "leaves one speechless." This marvelous hour and a quarter leaves one profoundly enriched and profoundly grateful.