The 19th-century judgment that Mozart's music was superficial and "tinkly" (with the exception of a few "romantic" works like the D-Minor Piano Concerto) is now very much discredited. But this viewpoint shows how radically different was the 18th-century conception of profundity and sentiment from that of the succeeding period. With Mozart (and in this he is typical of one of the strongest currents of his age) it is often the simple and obvious which is the profound; but of course the naivete is deceptive, and the real meaning of the phrase is neither simple nor obvious. The artist, however, must in no case insist upon this "real meaning"; though he has grasped it fully, his performance must have the fluency and calculated nonchalance which are the signs of restraint and cultivation. If he exceeds these bounds in any but the subtlest manner he questions the ability of a presumably equally cultivated audience to grasp the clusive substance beneath the "obvious" phrase.
David Lewin, in an all-Mozart piano recital Sunday afternoon, did for his composer all that may be expected of intelligent and careful musicianship, conscientious preparation, and a highly competent technique. This is very much indeed. In the D-minor Fantasia the audience could not fail to thrill to the sensitively tapered phrasing of the opening arpeggi, the furious and technically accurate rendition of the contrasting scale passages near the middle, and finally the delicate yet sparkling manner in which he tossed off the final Allegro.
The more taxing C-minor Fantasia did not have this unity of conception. In its opening pages, as in the Menuetto of the E-flat Sonata (R. 282), Mr. Lewin played so slowly that one lost the momentum of individual figurations, not to speak of whole phrases. One might also criticize the frequent obtrusion upon the melodic line of reiterated chords and single notes which should serve only as subdued accompaniment.
If, in the superb B-flat Sonata (K. 333) Mr. Lewin also failed to achieve the abandon one might hope for, he yet gave it a fluent and sensitive reading to end this highly satisfying program.