When Paul Badura-Skoda looked over the audience last night the listener, for one moment, felt unworthy. It was nothing calculated, merely the intense glance of a musical ascetic which Badura-Skoda confirmed by his pure playing of an all-Mozart program in the University of Maryland's continuing piano festival.
This venerable pianist expresses himself through architecture. By virtue of sheer mental force and supreme technical mastery he turned Mozart's piano works into might edifices that foreshadowed the master builder, Beethoven. There is certainly logic behind this point of view and, in some pieces, such as the opening Fantasie and Fugue in C Major and the following Sonata in A minor, K.310, the musical results possessed an immensely satisfying strength. In other works, however, such as the final Fantasie and Sonata in C Minor, the structural world was stressed to the detriment of the spiritual. Particularly in the opening passages of the Fantasie there was none of the brooding mystery which, after all, makes Mozart himself and not Beethoven.
However, even ascetics can have their playful side, which Badura-Skoda proved with a performance of the A Minor Sonata, K.310, that communicated an almost irrepressible sense of joy. The sonata's last movement is the well known Turkish rondo whose "hard bits," as Anna Russell demonstrates in one of her famous skits, have made every piano student suffer. Badura-Skoda's airy touch dispelled the idea of difficulty. Many a charmed listener must have imagined that, if he had only practiced more, he too might have found such reward.