Dear reader, never suspect that I don’t sympathise when this tireless enthusiast has raved unconditionally about one performance, or set of performances, only to bounce back soon afterwards with a preference further up the scale. Take Mozart piano sonatas. Who have I recommended recently? Peter Donohoe (Somm), Elisabeth Leonskaja (Warner Classics), Mao Fujita (with some reservations, on Sony Classical) and now the South Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son (Naïve V 8049, 6 cds, c£27.25), recorded last year and celebrated for the ‘refined artistry, [ … ] breath taking technical control and a profound empathy for the emotional temper of the works within her strikingly wide repertoire.’ Those claims are quoted from her webpage at but my reactions are based exclusively on hearing the cds. Son’s style combines boldness and intelligence with fluidity, a sense of musical logic, simplicity of approach where appropriate and a level of interpretative freedom that harks back to the days of Artur Schnabel who, like her, never allowed Mozart to sound hidebound by formality. Part of the trick is to space chords with enough room to express feeling but not enough to allow the bar line to bend too far. The aria-like Adagio from Sonata No. 14 in C minor, with its luftpausen or meaningful hesitations is an ideal place to sample, playing that also exhibits grander moments (2:22, just prior to one of those pauses). And note the desolate 5-note motive or the brief premonition of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata at 3:40. No. 15 in F major, which is treated to such honest reportage by Donohoe, has, prior to Son, shone most brightly under the hands of Mitsuko Uchida but here the luminosity of the first movement and the elegance of the add-on rondo-finale (the work was never finished) frame an Andante that, because of the repeat situation, stretches Uchida’s 9:28 to 12:10, then seals the effect with a marginal degree of added urgency. Urgency also characterises the whole of No. 9 in A minor, the first movement, another telling example of Son’s ability to ply the sonata with miniscule shifts in tempo and dynamics. No. 11 in A, the celebrated ‘Turkish March’ Sonata, is generous with repeats (all the sonatas are) and like No. 12 in F, is bold and vividly coloured. Everywhere you notice things you may not have noticed before, sforzandi, accents, dovetailed phrases and tiny embellishments that Son inserts across repeats. But more vital still is the listenability of these performances, the way they respond to frequent hearings. I stayed with them virtually for the duration. So – you’ve guessed already I suppose – my advice is to supplement your Mozart sonata library (be it Lili Kraus, Walter Gieseking, Uchida, Leonskaja, Donohoe, Robert Levin, Klara Wurtz, Maria Joao Pires, Daniel Barenboim, Glenn Gould, Angela Hewitt, Ingrid Haebler or whoever) with Yeol Eum Son, whose profound understanding of the music and keen sense of pianistic play will make the purchase more than worthwhile.

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