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Orli Shaham: Mozart – Complete Piano Sonatas Vol. 2 & 3

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Photograph of Orli Shaham by Aleksandr Karjaka courtesy of the artist

Mozart Sonatas K.282, K.283, K.310, K.331, K332, K545 & K576

If classical radio stations [in Toronto, at any rate] are “to be believed” there would appear to be only one Shaham sibling worth considering for regular broadcast – and that would be violinist Gil Shaham. Why his sister pianist Orli Shaham is not considered worthy of wider renown is a mystery – this despite the fact that she has now released a double disc [her second] featuring interpretations of Mozart’s Sonatas. To be fair, any pianist entering the crowded field of Mozart’s later piano Sonatas may run the risk of passing like the proverbial ship in the night. But Orli Shaham is no ordinary pianist.

Orli Shaham: Mozart - Complete Piano Sonatas Vol. 2 & 3
Orli Shaham: Mozart – Complete Piano Sonatas Vol. 2 & 3

The quality of her musicianship on Mozart – Complete Piano Sonatas Vol. 2 & 3 is altogether exceptional. Clearly pianist Orli Shaham takes nothing for granted – not Mozart’s lyricism, his penchant for ornamentation or the girt of his every his sinuous phrase. Nor should we do in listening Miss Shaham. If you know how your Mozart ‘goes’, then these discs are almost certainly not for you. Not that Miss Shaham does anything wildly idiosyncratic, let alone provocatively iconoclastic à la Glenn Gould. Nor does she [mercifully] show any sign of being a budding prophet.

Rather Miss Shaham plainly understands that every interpretation is just one possibility, and she offers us a very enticing opportunity to open our minds, especially in these often familiar sonatas most burdened with tradition. And even if – like me – you may be slightly disconcerted by the fact that the Sonata No 14 in C minor, K 457 is missing from these volumes, there is plenty of brilliance in these performances to remain in a state of wonder for the over two hours of music.

But the Mozart piano showpiece – Sonata No 11 in A major K 331 – is exquisitely represented here. And what a performance of exceeding beauty its performance is. As ever it begins not with the customary fast movement but with a gentle, almost folk-song-like lullaby which goes through a series of sprightly, if conventional variations. The ensuing Minuet and Trio leads without a break into the infectiously animated Rondo “Alla Turca” – a whirling dance which, like [Mozart’s] fifth violin concerto, reflects fashion for all things Turkish.  

In the sheer colour, in the depth of characterisation, in the exceptional range and refinement of her pianism Miss Shaham here imparts a power and towering stature to even those parts of Mozart’s music which has often been pigeonholed as ‘simplistic’. [Mr Gould is known to be guilty as charged in this regard].       

Miss Shaham ought to be infinitely better-known [if for no other reason, then] certainly as one of the finest interpreters of Mozart. Her steely, yet lyrical style is eminently suited to Mozart’s piano music – which is outwardly simple, but which – inwardly speaking – contains much buried treasure. At the peak of her pianistic powers [certainly on these two discs] Miss Shaham unearths a substantial degree of grit that lies beneath the filigree surface of these Mozart piano sonatas.  One can now only wait with bated breath as Miss Shaham works her way towards completing her extraordinary exposition of Mozart’s piano sonatas.

Released – 2022
Label – Canary Classics
Runtime – Disc One 61:11 Disc Two 1:01:34

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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