Piano Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 28
The Seasons, Op. 37b
Olli Mustonen (piano)
Ondine ODE 1082-5 (71 minutes)
There’s something about pianists who compose which marks them out from those who don’t, there’s a liberty in their playing which gets them deeper into the music, a refusal to be restrained by the notes on the page in their search for a deeper meaning.
In his early teens Olli Mustonen made his mark as a composer as much as a pianist, and lists of works on the website of the Finnish Music Information Centre reveals that he is still busy as a creator: there’s a cello sonata from 2006 listed there.
His handling of Rachmaninov’s barnstorming First Sonata and the contrasting delicacies of Tchaikovsky’s suite The Seasons (a movement a month) brings them up as fresh as daisies: the Rachmaninov has a fiery urgency and the Tchaikovsky a buoyant poise which are exhilarating. It’s especially the ability to expand and contrast rhythms within a melodic line – to tease out phrases and suddenly to start ahead – without losing the sense of flow and to articulate detail within an onward drive (capacities I’ve noticed in other composer-pianists, like Ronald Stevenson and Marc-André Hamelin) that give these readings their vigour.