Hidden Voices: Mozart Piano Sonatas, Volume II is a follow up to pianist Gil Sullivan’s previous album of Mozart Piano Sonatas Volume I on Hunnia Records. This album is available Stereo DSD 512, DSD 256, DSD 128, DSD 64 and DXD only from NativeDSD. It is a DSD Exclusive, Not Available on SACD release.
Gil Sullivan says “Not all great composers were great pianists, or indeed, performers at all, in that – due to pianistic limitations, they were often not the best interpreters of their own music. Haydn was an average pianist, and perhaps a better violinist, but certainly not a ‘performer’ of the same ilk as his close friend and contemporary – Mozart. Schumann could have been a great pianist, but irreparably damaged his hand in his early 20s, living vicariously through his pianist wife Clara, whilst Brahms was a great pianist in his youth, but hated practicing, so rarely performed in later life. During a performance of his 2nd Piano Concerto, Liszt (in the audience) said he preferred von Bülow’s playing of this concerto, as the composer apparently played fistfuls of wrong notes.
Schubert was not a performer, though serviceably accompanied his own songs in small soirees known today as Schubertiads. Of his ‘Wanderer Fantasie’, he once declared – “Let the devil play that!”. Neither Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Berlioz, Bizet, Dvorak, Faure, Mahler, Debussy nor Ravel were performers, though Bruckner was apparently a great organist. Two important issues arise here; firstly, one can only ‘guesstimate’ what a performance of especially those 18th Century composers could be like. Secondly, approaching the 20th Century, we can see the composer/performer was more and more a fast-dying breed.
Of our list above, all were improvisors of sorts, but Mozart – arguably the greatest in history – stands beside perhaps only two, of whom legends abound of the prowess of Bach and Beethoven. Therefore, when listening to a performance of Mozart’s music, this improvisatory aspect should penetrate the very syntax and sinews of his music, and be a wholly inextricable, identifiable element. His astonishingly fertile imagination more than amply implies there should be so much more to performing his music than the routinely robotic and unstylistic readings we are generally served up today.”
Gil Sullivan, Piano
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 01:05:40
|Original Recording Format|
|Release Date||March 3, 2023|
As I said in my earlier review of Volume 1, these performances by Gil Sullivan are delightful, they are colorful, and they are dynamic. They fully utilize the dynamic capabilities of the modern Steinway grand piano. Sullivan is not into delicate, tinkly, prancing, tunes. He has something to say and he thinks Mozart does, too—he plays accordingly.
Not everyone may like this style of playing, and that’s okay. We’re entitle to our preferences in choosing what to listen to. But I, for one, most decidedly do like the the very direct and powerful style in which Sullivan plays these works. He also explores very different phrasing than some other pianists, often more like Alfred Brendel’s adventures in sound, say, than like Ronald Brautigam or Lili Krauss (both of whose playing I greatly enjoy). His interpretations are delightfully fresh. And he brings to his playing very high technical skills and a deeply communicative command of the music.
To hear such an accomplished pianist “drill down to the nub of Mozart’s music” is a real pleasure. And by accomplished, I mean truly so…
So, when I read some commenter at NativeDSD dissing these recordings by Gil Sullivan, I must simply shrug and say, as gently as I can, “We clearly are not hearing the same things and we clearly don’t share the same listening priorities.” I will leave the rest of my reaction unsaid. But I will add one final note: this is a Pure DSD256 recording, so it is performed virtually live with no overdubs and only very limited edits. There may have been multiple takes, but what we are hearing is largely a live in the studio performance. And that takes some technical skills to pull off.
Try these performances for yourself. NativeDSD offers full track streaming samples at 48kHz. I think you will find yourself as pleased as I am with what Gil Sullivan brings to share.
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