Charles Chaplin and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – an awkward pair? Well, as we have seen in my first post on Mozart, a puppet of Chaplin made me discover Mozart’s piano music. And I recently came across another – unexpected – link. The comedian lived for man years in the Swiss town of Vevey, close to Geneva, in a mansion that is to become a museum. Here, he received a number of interesting guests. One of his regular invitees was the Rumanian pianist Clara Haskil (1895-1960), a legendary interpreter of Mozart’s works. Chaplin loved her playing at the Manoir de Ban! And guess what: Clara Haskil’s recordings of Mozart’s piano concertos and sonatas are readily available. Quel bonheur!
Straighforward and sentimental
Today’s post is about Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K. 595. The composer finished the piece in 1791, the year of his death. A solemn piece. A beautiful piece. A final statement too, just like his clarinet concerto (see the post of March 10, 2016). A waft of melancholy and resignation, but very clear, very straightforward in its sentimental content. It has been remastered in 1996 by the label Deutsche Grammophon, performed by the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Clara Haskil.
The first movement sets in with a soft, pulsating string part, the winds fall in and thus give the signal to Clara Haskil to take the lead. The piano asks, strings and winds answer, a serious dialogue, but not without occasional mischievous, ironic cadenzas. Mozart. Not Beethoven. The second movement starts with a piano solo, and when the orchestra sets in – a dream of harmony, a sublime voyage into another world, light and friendly. The third movement is kickstarted by the piano, but in a more lively way – allegro! No fantasies here either, clearly structured and very pleasant and beautiful executed at that.
Bucharest – Paris – Vevey
Clara Haskil was born into a Jewish family living in Bucharest and started to play the piano at the age of three under the guidance of her mother. Her father was a shopkeeper. At the age of six, she started to attend the conservatory of Bucharest and performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 (KV 488) in Vienna. Three years later, she joined the Conservatoire de Paris to deepen her studies. In 1909, she won the first prize for violin and the second prize for piano at the conservatory. One of the jurors was Gabriel Fauré…
A serious illness slowed her down for four years while she recovered her health in Switzerland. She performed in Europe and made her debut in the USA in 1924. In 1927, she returned to Paris where she stayed with her uncle after the death of her mother. After the German invasion of France in 1940, she fled first to Marseille and later to Switzerland to escape the Germans. After the war, she returned to Paris to resume her career In 1949, she gained Swiss citizenship, between 1951 and 1960, she lived in Vevey, close to Charles Chaplin’s place. She died after a fatal accident in Brussels, where she fell down a staircase.
© Charles Thibo