MOZART: Prelude & Fugue in C
with short fugues and pieces
Sang Woo Kang, p
Naxos 573114—71 minutes

with variations & other pieces
Anastasia Injushina
Ondine 1250—69 minutes

Reviewed by Alan Becker

Much of the contents seem to consist of chips from the master’s workbench. The Ondine disc goes so far as to refer to them as “Neglected Treasures”. Some questions may also arise about the way to list them, and what certain terms mean. Since I doubt ARG would be amenable to a protracted discourse on some of these bitty pieces (or fragments), we will have to leave that alone for now. Mozart’s name will probably be all the justification needed for hearing them. Some easily understood explanations can be had by going to the site music/classical/.

Fellow ARG reviewer Sang Woo Kang writes his own notes and discusses the music dispassionately without claiming all as the work of a genius. In fact, early Mozart shows uncanny craftsmanship but is rarely truly inspired or inspiring. That was to come later.

Comparing the two pianists in the one work they have in common finds Kang more than two minutes faster. The added speed does make a more exciting and intense experience in the Fugue. Russian born Injushina, on the other hand, lets the Fugue unfold with more sheer beauty and attention to shading. Ondine offers a more spacious acoustic, though there is nothing wrong with the Naxos sound.

Kang’s grab bag of fugues, rondos, and fantasias contains music of varying levels of interest. Fragments in some cases are just that, and some vaporize as quickly as they started. Others give us a little more to whet our appetite, should we meet and discuss them with Mozart in the afterlife. Kang supports the thesis that all are important to a full understanding of the composer. We can thank Mozart’s wife Constanze for pursuing their recognition following his death, and we can thank Kang for presenting many of them to us in this recording. The later rondos and other works need no apology for quality of inspiration, and Kang plays them expressively. What remains of the little heard Suite, K 399 is also a pleasant Bach-Handellike experience in Kang’s strong hands.

Injushina concentrates more on the “neglected” as opposed to the fragments. There are but two examples of the latter in her program, though the Allegro K 400 was completed by Mozart’s contemporary Maximilian Stadler. The Rococo style Andante, a late entry for an unusual instrument, is a lovely little piece. The Suite consists of only three completed movements; Kang gives us an additional Sarabande fragment lasting 23 seconds. For the completist this might tip the scales in his favor were it not for Anthony Goldstone’s fascinating full realization of this movement (M/A 2008).

The sonata movement K 312 is a stunning Allegro in G minor that only awaits the remaining movements to be attached. Once again, Goldstone to the rescue. The two sets of variations are substantial compositions. One is based on an aria from Gluck’s opera The Pilgrims of Mecca and the other on a French folk song, known to us as ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’. Both have been recorded many times and can hardly be considered neglected. Injushina performs them with great relish and, if her program is less daring than Kang’s, makes a most positive impression with oodles of charm.