Here is a rare look, in one sitting, into the God-given precocity of the young Mozart, whose sense of musical form and harmonic syntax already outshone his mature contemporaries by the time he was six or seven years old. Perfect miniatures, one might call these pieces. Leopold Mozart took his young son on a what he called the “European tour” (1763-1766), so the little virtuoso might impress the crowned heads in Vienna, Paris, and London. Wolfgang Mozart already had a full complement of menuets, andantes, and assorted klavierstuecke with which to demonstrate his talents in composition and execution. The manuscripts have almost no interpretive markings, so Russian pianist Lena Auerbach has had to make her own decisions about tempos, dynamics, and grace-notes. The recording from 28 December 1998 features a modern concert grand piano.
From the very opening notes of these 49 cuts, we can hear young Mozart’s assimilation of the Italian ornate operatic style, likely given Mozart through J. C. Bach. Arias, recitative, ensembles, interludes, marches: all these forms prove facile exercises for the youthful Mozart, whose 39 pieces from the London Notebooks exert an astonishing catholicity of taste. We can hear miniature Turkish effects a la The Seraglio, anticipations of later opera arias and piano concertos, and the harmonic ingenuities of late works like Idomeneo. We can distinguish buffa and tragic affects in Mozart’s range of expression. The little Klavierstuecke in A, KV 15i plays like a fine-tuned sonata by Galuppi. Doubtless, auditors will find their own moments of delight and harmonic innovaton in these pieces, which many an older musician would have been proud to claim as his own.