Paavali Jumppanen is an internationally esteemed pianist, with a vast performance repertoire spanning from Bach to the Avant-garde. Jumppanen’s performances of the complete cycles of Beethoven’s and Mozart’s Piano Sonatas as well as Beethoven’s concertos and chamber music have won critical acclaim. Jumppanen has collaborated with numerous contemporary composers and has premiered many solo and chamber works for the piano. Of particular note are his recordings of Pierre Boulez’s complete piano sonatas at the request of the composer. This adaptability between musical genres gives a fresh reading of the core classical piano repertoire.
On the evidence of this 1985 collection, Daniel Barenboim sees Mozart's piano sonatas as works for the concert hall rather than the drawing room, and he treats them, in many cases, merely as opportunities for pianistic sport. To be sure, the virtuosic passages are very athletically done, but Barenboim's steely fingered and unsubtle approach deprives the music of much of its elegance and feline grace. For an idea of just how heavy the weather can get, listen to the opening of the C minor Fantasia, K. 475. The marking is forte, but Barenboim lands on the octave C's like a safe on a 10-story drop, detonating the B-flats and A-flats that follow as if he were negotiating one of Liszt's nastier potboilers. He does the same with the left-hand octaves in the "Piu Allegro," and so on to the end of the piece. As a demonstration of piano fortitude, it's impressive, but it doesn't sound much like Mozart–unless, of course, you like your Mozart on the strong side. The engineering gives lots of weight and presence to the piano, but several tracks also exhibit a "hot ground" hum (especially noticeable in the slow movements of K. 279, 280, and 284), which may indeed be disturbing for those who are listening on good equipment. For a more sensitive interpretation, you might consider Mitsuko Uchida's traversal, though it lacks the Barenboim set's bargain price tag. –Ted Libbey