Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466 - 1. Allegro
Piano Sonata No. 3 in B-Flat Major, K. 281 - 1. Allegro
Piano Sonata No. 12 in F Major, K. 332 - 1. Allegro
Fantasia in D Minor, K. 397
Seong-Jin Cho :
Mozart Piano Concertos w/COE, Nezet-Seguin
SEONG-JIN CHO INTERPRETS POWERFUL AND DYNAMIC MOZART PIANO CONCERTO WITH NEW ALBUM ON DG
RECORDED WITH THE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA OF EUROPE AND YANNICK NÉZET-SÉGUIN SEONG-JIN CHO ON TOUR NOW IN THE USA
Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho will release his first Mozart recording, Piano Concerto No. 20 & Sonatas, on Deutsche Grammophon on November 16 – boasting a dynamic interpretation of one of the composer's most powerful and dramatic piano concertos. The album is available for pre-order everywhere today, along with the first track off of the album, Piano Sonata No. 3 in B-flat Major, K281.
Seong-Jin Cho was fortunate that his earliest memories of Mozart were fixed by his parents' recordings of two of the composer's greatest operas: The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute. They opened the young musician's heart to the limitless compassion of Mozart's music, which continues to resonate with Cho.
"When I play, I try to play with my heart, sincerely," he observes. "I try to convey my feelings and emotion – I've always tried to tell a story to the audience." Mozart, he adds, is the ideal story-telling composer. "His music is always closely related to singing and opera; very often the melodic line has to be rather like bel canto."
Bel canto – the art of "beautiful singing" – places a premium on good taste, on knowing when to give free rein to certain emotions and when to resist overstating others. Seong-Jin Cho's Mozart arises from such fine judgements of expression.
Cho's interpretation of the Piano Concerto in D minor, charged with expressive freedom and formal clarity, is above all concerned with the work's complex emotional world. "For me, Mozart has everything: his music has so many layers," he says. "When I listen to him I can feel all kinds of human emotions. For example, there are some parts of the D minor Concerto's third movement where he uses the minor key, but then he turns to major notes and it gives such a different feeling: it's as if he's toying with the emotions. It's genius."
Seong-Jin Cho found the ideal recording partners in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and its frequent guest conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, to capture the drama of the D minor Concerto.
"I met Yannick in 2017 when I went to Baden-Baden to hear him conduct the COE in La clemenza di Tito," the pianist recalls. He immediately felt at home with Nézet-Séguin's rich interpretation, captivated by its myriad colors and characterizations. Orchestra and conductor returned to Baden-Baden's Festspielhaus this summer to record Mozart with Cho.
"Yannick is such a good accompanist when he conducts opera that I knew he'd be a good accompanist for a pianist too – and I was right. He's such a sensitive musician that he reacts very quickly if, for example, I play rubato and take a little more time over a phrase. While we were recording he suggested a number of ideas that really inspired me." The COE's playing, generous in its big gestures and flavored with subtle nuances of articulation and expression, supported Cho's lyrical approach to the score. "The details are very important, aspects such as dynamics, phrasing, slurs, staccato, these types of articulation."
Seong-Jin Cho's reading of the D minor Concerto navigates the stormy emotions of its first movement, the romantic introspection of its central Romance, and its life-affirming happy ending. "You have to play it like a singer, so you have to breathe! You can't play it too strictly, because Mozart's music always has to sing!"
Striking contrasts and quicksilver changes of mood dictate the emotional weather of Mozart's Sonata in F Major K332. The work, written in Vienna during the second half of 1783, is crowned by one of the late 18th century's greatest keyboard showpieces, a dashing finale based on at least six thematic ideas and marked by sudden shifts between major and minor.
The pianist found the ideal foil to the F major work in what he describes as the "joyful" Sonata in B flat major K281, a charming product of Mozart's late teens inspired by the music of Haydn. Its central Andante amoroso, with its floating melody and delicate grace notes, could easily be reworked as an operatic aria.
The Fantasia in D minor, recorded as a bonus track for the digital and LP versions of the album, conjures up an even stronger evocation of opera, especially in its central Adagio section. As Cho notes, it explores the breadth of Mozart's expressive universe. "Many ideas in this piece seem orchestral to me. This is, I think, a very good example of a fantasia – it doesn't make sense to play it in a single tempo. It has to move and change."