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Next year will mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and it's likely that by the end of 2006 classical music fans will have heard the words "prodigy" and "genius" quite enough, thank you very much. However, at this early stage, it's refreshing to be treated to comprehensive looks at various aspects of Mozart's repertoire, and two recent releases bode well for the oncoming birthday-party deluge.

For more than 50 years, pianist Paul Badura-Skoda has been one of classical music's leading lights, and this collection of six CDs proves why. Bringing together 18 sonatas and eight other pieces (all of which were performed on an era-specific piano), Badura-Skoda's intense and fluid interpretations of Mozart are truly stunning. The first disc is especially enticing, as it collects five of what Mozart deemed "the six difficult sonatas" (the sixth shows up on the second disc), but equally interesting is disc No. 6, which has a motley assortment of piano compositions including "The Death March of Signor Maestro Contrapuncto." Recorded between 1978 and 1990, these six discs are actually available separately, but this anniversary-ready packaging makes their impact that much greater.

Similarly ambitious are Anne-Sophie Mutter's plans for acknowledging Mozart's birth. Kicking off with this November 2005 release and continuing through two more sets in 2006 (string trios in the spring, violin sonatas in the fall), Mutter is clearly unabashed in her plans to wish the boy genius a happy birthday. This first set is especially interesting, though, as Mutter not only employs her considerable violin talents through the five concertos and the sinfonia, but also picks up the baton to conduct the London Philharmonic through the pieces. Her brisk reading of the "Sinfonia Concertante" is particularly stunning, but there's nothing on this two-disc package that does the slightest disservice to Mozart's legacy.

Paul Badura-Skoda
Mozart: Pianoforte Sonatas


Anne-Sophie Mutter
Violin Concertos/Sinfonia Concertante

(Deutsche Grammophon)

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