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Brauchli, de Larrocha are true to Mozart's spirit


All-Mozart concert on

three keyboard instruments.

Swedenborg Chapel, Nov. 11.


Piano recital of works by

Mozart, Soler and Granados.

Symphony Hall, Nov. 15.


OF THE MANY COMMENTS MADE by Bernard Brauchli, celebrating 10 years of the Cambridge Society for Early Music "Chamber Music by Candlelight" series with an all-Mozart benefit concert on three keyboards, his remark on period performance practice at Mozart's time was perhaps the most revealing. Music during that period would rarely be written for a specific instrument in mind, but would be played on harpsichord, piano or clavichord, depending on which instrument was available and under what circumstances it was to be performed. Despite the great differences in tone and dynamics, no one instrument would be said to be "authentic."

This freedom of choice at the time of composition brings into question much of the ethos of today's "original instruments" movement with its demands to move back to particular instruments claimed to produce sounds which are "authentic." Perhaps the greatest message from both Brauchli and Alicia de Larrocha's playing on quite different instruments in concerts last week is that there is no one way to reach Mozart, but endless revelation to be found with a variety of means, and that being true to Mozart's music means being true to his spirit rather than to a particular instrument.

De Larrocha played on a creamy-smooth Steinway to a packed Symphony Hall last Friday night, and elicited a Mozart that was all sun. Her manner was simple, and her velvetty sound was delivered with remarkable ease. The second of the two Mozart sonatas she played -- in C, K. 330 -- was perhaps a little too innocent, although not entirely bereft of poignant touches. At times it seemed the sun was beating down just a little too intensively, and one wished for more shade. This was extremely enjoyable playing, exhibiting Mozart at his childlike and uplifting best, but it was not the deepest of performances, and left many elements of Mozart's score unexplored.

Listening to Brauchli was quite a different experience. He could also make his instruments sing radiantly, but produced a chirpier, cheekier sound which was more clearly defined as well as more characterful. He opened his concert on a square piano built by Christian Baumann of Zweybr"ucken, Germany, c. 1775 with Mozart's Sonata No. 5 in G, K. 283. The Allegro flowed charmingly, like a brook running helter-skelter over rocks, rather than a river caught in lazy meanders, and led naturally to an Andante taken slowly, and with an understated eloquence. Brauchli closed the sonata with intensity, the instrument responding more vividly than a Steinway could.

Twelve variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je Maman," perhaps better known as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," was next played with much variety as well as good humor.

The Fantasie in C minor, K. 475, brought the first half of the concert to a powerful conclusion. Played on a copy of a fortepiano which belonged to Mozart, Bruachli developed themes of profound darkness, but also admitted much light. The bass and treble took on different roles, as if they were dramatic characters at play, and the one instrument became the source for an orchestra of sounds.

The Fantasie in D minor, K. 397, was played on a delicate-timbred clavichord, and with much sensitivity. Returning to the square piano, Brauchli gave an account of the Rondo in A minor, K. 511 remarkable for its depth, and then took to the Anton Walter copy once more for a complex exploration of the Sonata No. 13 in B-flat, "Linz," K. 333. It was a performance of much color, of striking power, of pathos, but also of celebration; it was Mozart telling us through the keyboard that there is sadness, but ultimately it will be vanquished in joy.

Brauchli had perhaps taken us to deeper levels of Mozart, and perhaps humanity, than de Larrocha. But who is to doubt the warmth of her sun? Both provided engaging approaches to Mozart.

De Larrocha also performed music by Soler and Granados. The three Soler Sonatas with which she began were full of rhythmic inflection and a delight to hear. With Granados, de Larrocha really came into her own. The Goyescas she performed were Hispanic to the core. Rooted in folk rhythms, she painted them with rich colors leaving us -- at concert's conclusion -- as if at the end of an idyllic summer's day.