Mozart sonatas V8049

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Complete Piano Sonatas
Yeol Eum Son (piano)
rec. 2022, Tongyeong Concert Hall, Tongyeong, Korea
Naïve V8049 [6 CDs: 484]

With this album of Mozart’s complete piano sonatas, South Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son makes her debut on the Naïve label. A word about the pianist: in 2004, at the age of only fourteen, she performed Liszt’s First Piano Concerto with the New York Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel on their Asian tour which took in Seoul, Daejeon, and Tokyo. Four years later, again in Seoul, she performed the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 with the same forces. She has also been a prize winner at the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (2009) and the International Tchaikovsky Competition (2011). In the latter, she was singled out for both the Best Chamber Concerto Performance and the Best Performance of the Commissioned Work. Further information on the pianist can be gleaned from an excellent, informative article and interview with the pianist that Gregor Tassie provided for our Seen and Heard pages last December. It’s well-worth a read.

The sonatas span the years 1774 to 1789 and are laid out chronologically over the six discs. The advantage of this is that one can fully appreciate the development in style as one runs the course. The pianist uses a Steinway D, well regulated and tuned to perfection. It’s a very bright instrument, in an acoustic which enhances its brilliance. Yeol Eum Son’s ornamentation is tasteful and convincing, however, a little more tone colour in her playing would have been welcome.

I start with the Piano Sonata in D major, K.284 Durnitz, which is an impressive account by any standards. The opening movement is virtuosic and Yeol Eum Son rises to its challenges admirably, offering a riveting account. It’s followed by a elegant and wistfully tinged Rondo. The finale is a lengthy Theme and Variations. There’s a real sense of joie de vivre in the light and sunny Sonata in C major K330. The scale passages in the first movement sparkle with crystalline clarity. The allegretto finale is carefree and provides a joyous conclusion to this delightful score. By way of contrast, K310, one of only two piano sonatas Mozart wrote in the minor key, was composed in Paris in 1778 when the composer was experiencing a low point in his fortunes. Also, in July of that fateful year, his mother died after a short illness. Is his personal loss reflected in the turbulence of this work? Yeol Eum Son portrays the darkness, emptiness and desolation that permeates the music.

The other minor key sonata is the C minor k457. The opening Allegro sounds strikingly severe in this pianist’s hands, but there’s some compensating melting tenderness in the slow movement. The C major Sonata, K545, one of the pianist’s favorites as a child, is lovingly performed, with an intensely expressive inner movement. The buoyant Rondo: Allegretto has a wide-eyed innocence about it. The Piano Sonata No. 17 in B-flat major, K. 570 is a late one with a final Rondo a precursor of Prokofiev-like satire. It here receives an intelligently structured performance.

I’ve highlighted what should give you a flavour of the essence of this beautifully recorded cycle. The accompanying booklet, in English, French and Korean contains an interview the pianist gave to Claire Boisteau in which she discusses her love of Mozart and why she decided that the time was right to set down her interpretations of these richly rewarding works, “brutally passionate, dramatic and operatic, extremely capricious and so on……” Yeol Eum Son is worthy of mention in the same breath as those other standard-bearers in this repertoire, names such as Mitsuko Uchida, Ingrid Haebler, Maria João Pires, and more recently William Youn and Mao Fujita. This is a rewarding album, worth every penny of its asking price.

Stephen Greenbank

Help us financially by purchasing from

Presto Music
Arkiv Music

CD 1
Sonata in C major K.279
Sonata in F major K.280
Sonata in B flat major K.281
Sonata in E flat major K.282

CD 2
Sonata in G major K.283
Sonata in D major K.284
Sonata in C major K.309

CD 3
Sonata in D major K.311
Sonata in A minor K.310
Sonata in C major K.330

CD 4
Sonata in A major K.331
Sonata in F major K.332

CD 5
Sonata in B flat major K.333
Sonata in C minor K.457

CD 6
Sonata in F major K.533/494
Sonata in C major K.545
Sonata in B flat major K.570
Sonata in D major K.576