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Home Fou Ts'ong Collection CDE 84493 Mozart - Piano Works. Fou Ts'ong
W. A. Mozart
Fantasia in C minor, K475Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K457Rondo in A minor, K511Piano Sonata No. 15 in F, K533/494Adagio in B minor, K540Minuet in D, K355 (576b)Gigue in G, K574Andantino in E Flat, K236 (588b)
Mozart's piano compositions are works of enchanting charm and astonishing individuality. Their style is instantly recognisable by virtue of its distinctive elegance, vitality, mobility, clarity, symmetry, proportion and perfection. This style does, however pose certain problems for the performer: notably, should one play Mozart as one does the great composers of keyboard music who came before and after - J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert - or should one, on the other hand approach Mozart's piano compositions in a completely individual way, in terms of sound and style?
Let us look, first at the factors which contributed to the development of Mozart's unique style (considering the multitude of other composers and the amount of music being written at the time). Seen from a historical perspective, Mozart's style of composing for pianoforte (a relatively new instrument at the time, just beginning to replace the harpsichord) springs from three levels of inspiration. The most superficial of these is the 'gallant' style with its lightness, mobility, rippling figurations, charm, humour, wit, sensitivity and playfulness. At a more profound level is the style of heightened emotion (Empfindungstil) developed by C.P.E. Bach, with the emotional expressiveness of melody, contrasts of tempo and mood, and dynamics of emotion and passion. Finally, there is the style of J.S. Bach - note the exposition of the first movement of the Sonata in F based on double counterpoint; the subtle polyphonies of texture; the intense chromatics (Sonata in F, second movement), the depth of expression (Adagio in B minor), the dramatisation of form (Fantasia, Rondo, Adagio).
The 'gallant' and 'empfindsam' styles represent a certain 'community' and 'worldliness' - the composer striking a graceful balance between pleasing the public and pleasing himself. J.S. Bach's style, on the other hand, is synonymous with individuality, spirituality, inwardness; his influence can best be observed in Mozart's later works; the Fantasia in C minor, the Rondo in A minor and the Adagio in B minor. Mozart draws on all these sources of tradition, transforming, forging and subliminating their influence into a style of his own. Nevertheless, all that is most valuable in his piano music can be traced back to the Cantor of Leipzig.
Let us look now and where Mozart's genius reveals itself in his solo piano works. Its essence lies in the way in which the composer plays with form. He is using standard, given elements - the heritage of the past and the collective legacy of his times - be they older, like the Rondo, Fantasia and Variations, or newer, like Sonata Form. The essentials of these forms can be summarised as follows:
In the Rondo, the basic concept or theme recurs periodically, either identically or somewhat altered, interwoven with other musical ideas and figures. In the Fantasia, the sequence or succession of various musical figures and ideas forms a whole framed by a principal theme. In Variations, the principal idea or main theme undergoes a series of changes, without ever renouncing its identity.
Sonata Form (the most complex of all models) contains two different thematic planes - supplemented by a third plane acting as a conclusion - which are contrasted in varying degrees and initially revealed in various keys; subsequently they or their constituents undergo transformation of a melodic, harmonic and tonal nature, following which the arrangement of the exposition is restored in the constructed according to the arch-form (ABA) and based on an intricate web of harmonic and tonal relations and allusions.
In Mozart's piano music these models are always easily recognisable: his Rondos are in Rondo form, his Sonata Form is clearly recognisable; and his Variations are just that: variations. At times, Mozart overlaps these forms, borrowing traits from one to give to another.
Such, indeed is the essence of Mozart's 'game' with form: he respects and values it, without giving it absolute power and status, and it is through this game that his creative genius shines. Models cease to be stereotyped; instead they act in some degree as regulators, as reference points in the course of the music. With the medium of the piano, Mozart creates a form that, whilst not awesome in terms of length, is great by virtue of its drama and expressive energy.
The Fantasia and Sonata in C minor, the Rondo in A minor and the Adagio in B minor - each of these works represents a miniature musical drama. They are also Mozart's deepest and most personal works, all characteristically written in a minor key.
In the Fantasia the astonishing power of the imagination generates a multitude of musical forms, each succinctly unfolded out of a single kernel-motif. The Sonata complements the Fantasia by contrasting the latter's pre-Romantic imagery and changing moods with a classical precision and symmetry of construction. In the Rondo in A minor the musical time is extended by means of developing successive episodes, transformation of the themes, variation in successive reprisals of the refrain; in short though the augmentation of the 'action'.
Intensity as the keystone of form dominates in the Adagio in B minor, possibly the most mysterious of Mozart's piano compositions. (Was this isolated work planned as one movement of a sonata?) Here the concentration of musical thought is unique and the form is condensed to a degree exceptional even for Mozart. Nowhere else in his work is such a unique embodiment of the sonata form to be found. The expressive concentration of the musical substance is present in both the micro-scale of motif and theme, and on the greater scale of the whole.
All three works under discussion (Fantasia, Rondo, Adagio), as well as the chromatic structure of the Minuet and the intensity modulated transformational harmonies of the Andante in the Sonata in F, prove Mozart to be a genius far ahead of his time. His piano music can in fact be said to contain in a nutshell the formal and stylistic idioms of his three great Romantic successors. We hear Beethoven (b.1770 anticipated by Mozart in the dynamics of his form, his vehemence and disciplined passion (Fantasia, Sonata in C minor), his pronounced contrasts and the shifting moods of his music. We hear pre-echoes of Schubert (b.1797) in the pulse of the narrative and the particular lengthening of narration (Rondo in A minor), the nostalgic and tender melodic turns, the expressive shadowing of tonal moods and the intense emotionality. And finally Chopin (b. 1810) is anticipated in Mozart's advanced harmonic structures (Andante in the Sonata in F, Rondo, Adagio), in the melodic tenderness and the harmonic and tonal sublimation of his endings (Adagio in B minor), in the conciseness of his expression; and generally in what can be called a draft of Chopin's large-scale form and the poetry found in his nocturnes and ballads.
In the 1930's, Shanghai was one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the world. Fou Ts'ong was born in 1934. His father was Fou Lei, a famous scholar and an unyielding opponent of injustice. The family possessed the latest recordings of the great pianists of that time. Lei was involved in translating great French novelists and philosophers into Chinese. An Italian piano professor taught Fou Ts'ong, who provided the accompaniment for a church choir in a performance of Messiah for his first appearance in public. Rapid musical developments followed a family decision to support his intensive studies, Fou having agreed to give up his former role as a advocate activist. In 1953 he moved to Europe, where the Warsaw Conservatory professors were amazed at his intuitive grasp of mazurka rhythm, elusive to even the best trained Western pianist. Major awards, including the Chopin Competition in Warsaw led him to the class of Zbigniew Drzewicki, who regarded Fou's talent as natural; teaching by way of suggestions only. A favorite with many of the world's foremost conductors, his regular London recitals inevitably include many of today's legendary pianists in the audience; a clear sign that his great art is appreciated and admired not just by the public and press, but also by his peers.
The 1960s witnessed insane tumults in China, touching Fou most deeply with the tragic loss of his parents. Every critical accolade has greeted him. TIME magazine called him the greatest Chinese musician alive today. Hermann Hesse called him the only true performer of Chopin. His recording of Chopin's Nocturnes won the instrumental prize of the Japanese critics. Aware of many traditions, but part of none, Fou Ts'ong regards the object of his performances as the complete realization of the score. His insistence on the importance of every marking would be didactic were it not for him the only truth in music. In conversation he might be judged as a thinker, in performance emotional involvement in the music seems total. Often, he refers to the masters of Chinese painting, their linear precision rendering what is universal from a prospective that is immediate and part of the landscape, and, like a bird in flight, above it and yet part of it.
Fou Ts'ong returned in the fall of 1998 to perform in China for the first time since 1989. His tour included festivals in Beijing and Shanghai as well as master classes. All the proceeds from the tour were donated to the flood victims. He also participates in the Argerich-Beppu Festival in Japan and performs in North America and Canada in the New Year of 1999. His recordings of solo piano music by Mozart and Schumann as well as piano concerts by Mozart and Chopin have recently been issued by Carlton Classics. Fou Ts'ong has been part of the jury at international piano competitions which include Leeds, Queen Elizabeth, Geneva, Chopin, Dino Ciani, etc. He teaches every year at the International Foundation for Young Pianists at Como, Italy.
Fou Ts'ong – described by Time magazine as the greatest Chinese musician alive today – was born in Shanghai in 1934. He studied with Zbigniew Drzewicki in Warsaw and then in 1960 came West, settling in London. He has been a prizewinner in the Bucharest and Chopin competitions and was also awarded the special Mazurka prize. He has performed worldwide in every continent, given master classes in many institutions, colleges, foundations and conservatoires. He has recorded music by composers such as Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Chopin, Schumann, Schubert, Mozart and Debussy.
Other releases by Fou Ts'ong
CDE 84390 SCHUBERT Zwölf deutche Tänze, genannt “Ländler” Op. Posth 171, D790; Sonata in B flat major, D960; Zwanzig Walzer gennant “Letzte Walzer” Op. Posth 127, D146, Nos 15 - 18; Zwei Deutsche Tänze D841; Zwei Deutsche Tänze D769; Allegretto in C minor (Wien den 26 April 1827); Variation über einen Walzer von Ant. Diabelli.Recorded Live at St. John’s, Smith Square, London. 1998.
CDE 84483/4-2 DEBUSSY Complete Preludes and Etudes (2 CD set).
CDE 84485 D. SCARLATTI 32 Sonatas.
CDE 84486 MOZART Concertos for Piano & Orchestra No. 22 in E flat, K482; No. 24 in C minor, K491.Sinfonia Varsovia
CDE 84487 J.S. BACH Partita No. 4 in D major.HANDEL Sonata in G minor; Concerto in G major; Suite No. 7 in G major.D. SCARLATTI Sonatas K424, K425, K454, K455, K546, K547.
CDE 84488 CHOPIN Piano Concertos No. 1 in E minor; No. 2 in F minor.Sinfonia Varsovia
CDE 84489 MOZART Concertos for Piano & Orchestra No. 21 in C, K467; No. 27 in B flat, K595.Sinfonia Varsovia
CDE 84490/1-2 SCHUMANN Arabeske in C, Op. 18. Kinderszenen Op. 15; Kreisleriana, Op. 16; Papillons, Op. 2; Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6; Vogel Als Prophet Op. 82/7 (2 CD set).
CDE 84492 MOZART Concertos for Piano and Orchestra No. 9 in E flat, K271; No. 12 in A, K414. Polish Chamber Orchestra
CDE 84493 MOZART Fantasia in C minor, K475; Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K457; Rondo in A minor, K511; Piano Sonata No. 15 in F, K533/494; Adagio in B minor, K540; Minuet in D, K355; Gigue in G, K574; Andantino in E flat, K236.
CDE 84494 HAYDN Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in D. Hob XVIII/11.Polish Chamber OrchestraBEETHOVEN Concerto for Piano & Orchestra No. 4 in G, Op. 58.Sinfonia Varsovia.