Pure DSD

Hidden Voices – Mozart Piano Sonatas: Volume III [Pure DSD]

Gil Sullivan

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(4 customer reviews)
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Original Recording Format: DSD 256
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Hidden Voices, Mozart Piano Sonatas, Volume III is the latest album by pianist Gil SullivanExclusively available in Stereo Pure DSD 256 from NativeDSD, this is his 3rd DSD album on the Hunnia Records label.

Having listened for over half a century to tens of thousands of recordings of Mozart’s music, be it piano music, string quartets, symphonies, operas, et al, I have been hugely energized by these recordings. Not because they are so great, but because they are often so terrible!

The subterranean – often chromatic voices in Mozart’s music reveal him demonstrably as a composer far greater than merely a gifted melodist, and this is why I have called this series of recordings of the complete Mozart Piano Sonatas – Hidden Voices.

Any ten fingers of almost any pianist can play these relatively simple notes, that however require an altogether different pianist to metamorphose them into music. Since experiencing Mozart primarily as a youngster playing my first sonatas and concertos, I immediately felt there were deeper layers than just the melodic oil slick floating at the surface, so have been steadfastly drilling down to the nub of Mozart’s music throughout my long career as a concert performer.

Gil Sullivan, Pianist

Tracklist

Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
1.
Piano Sonata No. 4 in E-flat major, K. 282 I. Adagio
05:47
2.
Piano Sonata No. 4 in E-flat major, K. 282 II. Menuetto I–II
04:53
3.
Piano Sonata No. 4 in E-flat major, K. 282 III. Allegro
02:37
4.
Piano Sonata No. 9 in D major, K. 311: I. Allegro con spirito
05:14
5.
Piano Sonata No. 9 in D major, K. 311: II. Andantino con espressione
05:58
6.
Piano Sonata No. 9 in D major, K. 311: III. Rondeau: Allegro
07:53
7.
Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545: I. Allegro
03:41
8.
Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545: II. Andante
05:09
9.
Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545: III. Rondo: Allegretto
02:31
10.
Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310: I. Allegro maestoso
06:55
11.
Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310: II. Andante cantabile con espressione
10:40
12.
Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310: III. Presto
03:21

Total time: 01:04:39

Additional information

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SKU

HRES22403

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Original Recording Format

Release DateAugust 11, 2023

Press reviews

Positive Feedback

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.

4 reviews for Hidden Voices – Mozart Piano Sonatas: Volume III [Pure DSD]

    This review relates to all three volumes of this set.

    After over 60 years of listening to classical music, I have absolutely never heard worse piano playing in a profession recording.

    This is so bad it’s as if the player were a third rate student at a third rate music college just hoping to graduate somehow. It’s too bad because the sound quality is good.

    I would recommend different performances but this is so bad that literally anything else you could choose whatsoever would be better than this. Inexcusable.

    The Australian pianist, Gil Sullivan, recently released the album Hidden Voices, Mozart Piano Sonatas, Volume III on the Hunnia Records label. It includes sonata Nos. 4, 9, 8 by the very young Mozart (even No. 8 was written in 1777 when Mozart was merely 21) as well as No. 16.

    I found the interpretation of Mozart’s work by Sullivan was very engaging and sustained my great attention and curiosity to hear what Sullivan was about to do next. The title Hidden Voices at first glance should point to Sullivan’s carrying of Mozart’s inner polyphonic voices. But the title also made sense in the following way — Sullivan is placing a microscope over the music and revealing hidden ‘expressive practice’ all over the place.

    The moment you press play, do not expect merely sugar coated chocolate (with cream added) sounds and predictability, and do not assume Sullivan is going to play in the way that is presently fashionable. What is fashionable now and what was fashionable then has not a great deal in common; though many wouldn’t know it, and possibly wouldn’t want to know if they had the chance. We have not only the literature describing how composer-pianists performed, but also some important rare recordings by early living composer-pianists, born even in the early 1800s, that are pretty revealing. A good example is Carl Reinecke, born 1824 for which we are fortunate to have many roll recordings. Sullivan has a lot more in common with Reinecke than what you hear repeated again and again today. I’ll try to get to the essence of what this means.

    Mozart’s phrasings are rather unusual to our modern ears. It would be much simpler task for Sullivan to play the works complying to the conventions specific to our current time — which we invariably mistakenly view as universal. In the quest for meeting the most minimal scrutiny, some pianists, inadvertently or not, enjoy this strategy. Sullivan doesn’t. It is far harder to play what Mozart actually phrased. Sullivan’s playing is thoughtful, calculated and rich with ideas. Even with popular movements such as the Andante of Sonata No. 16, the work is presented as a new invention, as if Gil had just recently worked on it and presented it as a new composition. Fans of familiar recordings, wanting a repeat of what they have been indoctrinated to enjoy, may gasp.

    To enjoy the great artistic value in the recordings, let me warn that they do demand serious attention, or I would go further and say ‘participation’. Sullivan’s recordings, like Reinecke, in particular allow you to observe some real interpretation going on — for which I mean observing the act of interpreting itself, if you see the distinction. As I wrote at the outset, you don’t listen to Sullivan for sugar, but to experience your own discovery, along with Sullivan, and an unfolding of ideas. You really want to listen to Sullivan whilst concentrating, not whilst driving — or maybe you can go for it, but you might be in for some trouble. Your insurance company won’t understand your explanation that the Mozart interpretation required your attention.

    Sullivan goes out of his way to read Mozart’s markings diligently. I heard in an interview that Sullivan read – “many times” – Mozart’s 614 extant letters in order to feel the character in Mozart much more than most. At the first pass, I wondered if the playing lacked a rhythmic accentuation to provide the dance-like, or folk music, quality within Mozart. Probably, but other people will differ. Sullivan’s ability to alter the touch, the pedaling, the use of crescendos and diminuendos, and so on, are so richly and resourcefully applied, and always with a purpose, whether structural or marking a novel harmony or other change. 

    Listening to these recordings — I played them over many days whilst walking amongst nature, and not in any order — I learned to place my attention less upon the direct outward sound, and more upon Gil Sullivan’s inner thought process. Without doing so, one could be inclined to mistakenly glance over the real substance, and real soul, of these recordings. When doing so, you may be in for a beautiful experience.

    It is heartwarming to hear one, even if amongst only a few, modern pianists bucking the modern trend of rinse and repeat performances of the classics. As far as my intuition goes, I’m pretty sure Mozart would approve.

    Yes! I’m so glad I found these recordings. Along with Mr Sullivan’s undoubted skill and virtuosity I am delighted to hear the music being played as though every note meant something, being played with thoughtful ,comprehensive, dynamism and balanced phrasing which together evoke a satisfying depth of emotion.

    Here is music for the adventurous! If you are enamoured of the rehashing of Mozartian tropes and mannerisms, you will need to look elsewhere. I have not heard Mozart played like this, and it comes as fresh as an invigorating sea breeze.

    Having heard the first 3 volumes of this ambitious set, I note numerous telling features. Firstly, Sullivan is not afraid of treating the young Mozart seriously, like a real grown up, imbuing the early sonatas, where apt, with the pathos of his later work – none of that fay, polite rococo stuff here. For example, the Sonata No.2 presentation is at once more dramatic and compelling than previous interpretations.

    There is an interestingly robust, ‘Falstaffian’ broadening of the first movement’s triplet passages with inner nuanced rubatos, foiled by almost percussive sforzando interruptions. And a notable reinvigoration and energizing occurs in the exposition repeat. With Sullivan a repeat is never a linear duplicate in time, but rather, as are all human memories, a reimagined recollection in the light of experience. The development is intriguingly tempered momentarily, as if looking slowly through a magnifying glass at the material, before snapping us back to the middle ground with a vigor that is positively Sturm und Drang.

    Sullivan’ slower movements are not the standard moments of repose often heard. He often transforms these into the sonatas’ center of gravity. Elastic Alberti bass accompaniments support cantabile lines of Chopinesque delicacy into tender suspension pauses, yet punctuated by section endings that are almost shocking. One is never permitted to lull into auto pilot! Such contrasts give the effect of augmenting the scale and scope of the work.

    Finales are frequently sparkling, quirky, bubbling renditions, infused with ever present micro shifts in phrase and figure repetitions. There are occasions where an expansive motor drive creates an exciting, almost impatient, headlong rush toward cadence points. A novel effect arises, not so much of a resting or concluding the previous period, as of pushing on irresistibly and impetuously to the next – as if defying gravity.

    The overall effect of these sonata interpretations is one of constant engagement in and immersion with the musical narrative, which is refreshing as it is alerting. One is always on the edge of one’s seat, never lounging back in the velvety-cushioned comfort of familiarity.

    The recording quality has a stunning clarity and all praise to the producers here. With this audio acuity, and Sullivan’s unique interpretations, those exquisite hidden voices of Mozart are no longer hidden.

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Hunnia Records 194 albums

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