Turkish pianist Fazıl Say is known for his virtuosic readings of core classical repertoire. He is also a composer and, in a tradition that has a long history in Western Classical music, incorporating folk influences from his native Turkey. Notoriously, Say was sentenced to a ten-month jail term in 2013 for making allegedly blasphemous comments on Twitter, a charge that was overturned by the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals in 2015.

Today, we find him signed to Warner Classics and turning his attention to the complete piano sonatas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with stunning results. The 18 sonatas and Fantasia in C Minor are grouped on six discs according to key, and were recorded in 2014 in the Great Hall of the Mozarteum Salzburg. For Say, Sonata No 14 in C Minor is the most momentous and a significant influence on Beethoven and Schubert. His playing is utterly assured, precise and crisp, with any potential for brittle timbre alleviated by the recording’s roomy warmth. Mozart’s music “requires us to assimilate it with our own bodies and beings… to live it and breathe it,” according to Say, who was striving for “a certain naturalness” throughout, and his detailed notes on each sonata are included. 

The recording is glorious, with a rich, sonorous presence that lingers in the air as the notes decay, creating a sense of great intimacy. If you’re looking for a beautiful, attractively-priced introduction to Mozart’s sonatas, Say is a great place to start.

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