Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Article excerpt

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Auerbach Plays Mozart: Complete Keyboard Works from Ages 5 to 9. Lera Auerbach. Arabesque Z6795, 2004.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Early String Quartets & Divertimenti. Cuarteto Casals. Harmonia Mundi HMI 987060.62, 2005.

Both of these releases feature music written by Mozart during his early childhood and adolescence. The Auerbach disc presents the entirety of two notebooks containing music composed by the young Mozart and transcribed by his father: the first, known as Nannerl's Notebook (named for his beloved older sister), consists of brief pieces composed between 1761 and 1763, when the boy was between the ages of five and seven, and the second is the London Notebook, which contains more complex and advanced pieces written by the still-prepubescent Mozart while he was under the tutelage of Johann Christian Bach in England. The recording by the Cuarteto Casals focuses on the earliest string quartets in Mozart's oeuvre, beginning with K. 80 (written in a single night when the composer was fourteen years old) and ending with K. 173, which was composed three years later.

The subject of Mozart's preternatural musical talent has been so thoroughly flogged over the course of the last two centuries that it hardly seems worth bringing up again, even at the time of his 250th birthday. And so many jaded critics have pointed out the relatively low level of sophistication on display in these very early piano works that one takes a real risk in publicly expressing enthusiasm for them. But to step back from such concerns and simply listen to these pieces, especially in graceful and intelligent performances such as Auerbach provides here, is to be amazed again (and perhaps ever so slightly horror-stricken) by a compositional talent that is more than just prodigious--it is something that borders on the freakish. …