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Once Upon A Time / Katie Mahan

Release Date: 10/07/2022
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30203
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ,  Franz Liszt Performer:  Katie Mahan Number of Discs: 1

Pianist Katie Mahan’s latest project is a very personal album focusing on the music of Mozart and Liszt.

"These works hold a particularly special place in my heart and memory. Each has been with me since my earliest years, being learned and relearned, discovered and rediscovered. They have inspired me, challenged me, taught me and grown with me, and in the process, helped to create the musician that I am today."
-- Katie Mahan

Album Credits:
Recorded August 18, 2019 at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany.
Recording Engineer: Rainer Maillard
Editing and Mastering: Rainer Maillard
Piano: Steinway Model D (Hamburg) Provided by Steinway-Haus Berlin
Read more Photos: Herbert Dachs, Salzburg

R E V I E W S:

This album of piano works by Mozart and Liszt was inspired by her own childhood dreams, says singular pianist Katie Mahan. One of the greatest gifts of childhood is the ability to dream big. The album is called "Once upon a time..." Today the artist, who comes from Colorado and lives in Salzburg, has a large repertoire. She was twelve when she discovered Mozart's Fantasia and Fugue K. 394 and was fascinated by the polyphonic part-writing, influenced here by Johann Sebastian Bach. On this acoustically spacious CD she interprets this fantasy KV 394 with an unerring sense of melodic effects and rich thematic material. No less impressive is her sensitive rendition of the Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor K. 310 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The heroic and tragic character of the first movement comes into its own here – and the dynamic intensity constantly increases. One senses the rigid fanaticism of the will, which the pianist expresses with unusual rhythmic clarity. The fanfare-like main theme also shines out with great intensity and is reminiscent of a dramatic overture. And the pounding quaver accompaniment has a decidedly orchestral effect. Katie Mahan effectively brings out tragedy and pathos here. And the unusual rhythmic accentuation captivates in the interpretation of the further movements. In the first movement, the stirring rendering of the development section, which evokes chaotic elements, is particularly fascinating. And yet the strong sonata form remains untouched. In particular, the chromatically ascending run reinforces the inner tension of this interpretation. This also applies to the two retarded seventh chords. Katie Mahan then plays the second movement "Andante cantabile con espressione" with passionate emphasis. The theme has a broad flowing power, the flow of which seems to be incessant. The secondary theme, on the other hand, is graceful, where a staccato scale stands out in a charming way. The clumsy motives of the bass appear defiant, struggling against the triplet rhythm. A shadowy A minor Presto dominates the finale in an almost eerie manner. The changes in timbre between C major, C minor and E minor have an almost enchanting effect. It is an eerie play of shadows, but it also leads to the light. Katie Mahan's robust rendition of Franz Liszt's Piano Sonata in B minor captivates above all because of the sensitive exploration of the motivic germ cells, which assert themselves here with tonal power. The pianist in no way denies the symphonic dimension of this composition. This is already evident in the hymn-like “Grandioso” in D major in the first movement. Stormy effects flash, giving the game a revolutionary, wild character. And the intensity of the lyrical secondary theme in D major with the cantando phrase shows an almost hypnotic luminosity. During the performance, the cleverly worked out processing of the two thematic complexes, which come together completely, triumphs. The character of a passionate soul seems to assert itself with a vengeance. He can't be stopped. The contrapuntal masterfully worked fugato unfolds an unbelievable magic in the octave stretta. And the mysterious coda echoes the sublime main theme. Although one could accentuate the confessional character of this sonata even more in some places, the pianist succeeds in moving and touching musical descriptions of human passions, flights of fancy and struggles.

In particular, the hymn-like chord motif and the defiant battle motif are strongly remembered. The transfigured final chords are also of the greatest impact here. Overall, it's an excellent rendition.

-- Online Merker (Translated from the original German)

The reviewer admits that he was prejudiced: the young pianist Katie Mahan poses on the cover of her CD on the Müllner Steg in Salzburg like a piano girlie, looks elegiacally upwards, stares meaningfully at the viewer or seems to be dreaming with her eyes closed. With the first notes played, however, one jumps up as if struck by an electric shock: one hears power and delicacy, formal sovereignty and playful virtuosity, and above all: seriousness.

However, one is amazed at the program composition: from Mozart's childhood works, which he could not even notate himself, to Liszt's highly complex B minor Sonata - that has to be explained. Mahan does this in the very private text in the booklet, which is only available in English. She justifies her choice psychobiographically, with the pieces that she became familiar with when she was a child. She even wanted to play Liszt's Sonata in B minor when she was 8 years old.

Expressive and technically perfect. Highly tense and expressive, not forgetting the cantabile, Katie Mahan plays Mozart's Sonata in A minor K. 310, understands it as biographically influenced (death of Mozart's mother in Paris), whips it with sharp accents, threatens rhythmically monotonous bass figures in the development and shapes sharp attacks, as if blowing the attack.

In the second movement, one of the most artistic and differentiated movements of Mozart's slow piano sonata, she occasionally produces an eerie sfumato sound in the left hand and enlivens the runs with tiny, suspicious pauses before the target notes or with meaningful chantings, lending this movement at almost painful high tension. Technically perfect, it then races through the presto of the final movement as if rushed: the suppressed demonry is suspended in the playing technique.

The pianist also devotes loving attention to other small works by Mozart: She tries to give meaning to the prelude in the Fantasy and Fugue KV 394 (according to the booklet she played this work publicly at the age of six) and gives the Allegro in C minor KV 5a dynamic and agogic deliberation.

Katie Mahan owes nothing to Liszt's Sonata in B minor, neither extreme, never-ending power development nor beautiful-sounding dolcissimo; she logically and convincingly proves how confidently she understands the structure of this sonata. She never lets herself be carried away to mere witch frenzy.

The recording location, the Berlin Jesus Christ Church, gives the Mozart pieces with the church hall something of monumentality.

-- Klassik Heute (Translated from the original German) Read less