CD Review: Robert Silverman's complete Mozart Sonata box a major disappointment
When a veteran artist sits down to record a whole set of works by a significant composer, one should pay attention. Robert Silverman, who is 72 now, has had a long and respected career in Canada and beyond. He has recorded all 18 of Mozart's Piano Sonatas (plus the C-minor Fantasy to go with No. 14) and released them in a 7-disc boxed set.
To say that I'm disappointed with the results is an understatement. The reason is simple: Silverman has neatly laid out the notes of each piece, from beginning to end, following the composer's instructions and performing on a modern concert grand piano in a highly articulated style that is probably closer to Mozart's approach than the smoother, modern way of playing. But that's it. I'm assuming that it was Silverman's careful interpretive choice, but there is nothing extra in his performances to suggest a desire to make beautiful music out of these piles of notes.
Just notes, even be they from masterworks of Bach, Beethoven or Brahms, are never interesting without the interpreter's added touch. Staying out of the musical picture is not what historically accurate performing is all about.
My disappointment with Silverman grew last night, when English keyboard master Richard Egarr managed to coax more music, nuance and dynamic excitement out of his little fortepiano than Silverman did from a modern Steinway.
In the accompanying booklet, Silverman makes a big deal of the way the sound for these sonatas was captured, using something called an IsoMike. I found the resulting sound too dry and clinical -- further accentuating the uninteresting piano playing.
I feel sad that all this time, effort and money have come to so little.
This performance of the "Alla Turca" rondo from Sonata No. 11 is nearly 20 years old, but I was surprised to hear that Silverman's approach hasn't changed much. Compare it to a nearly 60-year-old recording by the late Alicia de Larrocha, my single greatest youthful inspiration in piano performance:
Here's a little extra: de Larrocha with gnarled hands making poetic magic in the "Larghetto" from Mozart's final Piano Concerto, No. 27, with Nicholas Carthy leading the Svizzera Italiana Orchestra.