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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Six Sonatas, K301-306, & Variations, K359-360

CD1 [69.31]
Sonata IV in E minor, K304 (1778) [15.04]
Sonata I in G major, K301 (1778) [16.42]
Sonata III in C major, K303 (1778) [11.36]
Sonata II in E flat major, K302 (1778) [14.49]
Six Variations on "Hélas j’ai perdu mon amant", K360 (1781) [11.02]
CD2 [62.41]
Sonata V in A major, K305 (1778) [17.00]
Sonata VI in D major, K306 (1778) [29.36]
Variations sopra l’aria la Bergére Célimene, K359 (1781) [15.50]
Laura Alvini (fortepiano) & Enrico Gatti (violin)
recorded 29 October - 3 November 1997 in the Villa Medici Giulini, Brioso, Italy
ARCANA A406 DDD [132.12]

 

Experience Classicsonline

These six sonatas were written during Mozart’s long journey to and from Paris (through Munich, Augsburg and Mannheim) between the end of 1777 and the summer of 1778: a particularly interesting period in the composer’s development which, though coinciding with the death of his mother, saw his stylistic horizons broaden significantly. They clearly form a set (hence Arcana’s listing I-VI, despite the existence of several earlier – and a handful of later – sonatas for this combination) and have often been referred to as the ‘Palatine’ Sonatas, after the dedicatee, Princess-Electress Elisabeth Auguste, wife of Karl Theodor of the Palatinate.

You may have been dissuaded – I was, in my formative years – from taking the Mozart Violin Sonatas too seriously. But it would be a pity to overlook them, for they contain much charming music, and not a few surprises. There’s very little that could be called innovative (compared to, say, the Piano Concertos, or even the Violin Concertos) and there’s not much of the soul-searching one finds in the great String Quartets or Quintets. Indeed, of the pieces recorded here, only the D major, K306, can claim to be in any way heavyweight: and it is the only three-movement work in this set.

Even so, the violin-piano dialogue in the rondo of the E flat Sonata, K302, is irresistible. Likewise the unexpected tempo changes in the first movement of the C major, K303. And there is much of the dramatic – indeed chromatic – expressiveness we associate with the great minor-key Mozart in both the E minor Sonata, K304, and a number of short-lived episodes in the minor mode in the G major, K301.

It’s useful to remind ourselves that these pieces were described as Sonatas for Harpsichord or Fortepiano with Violin Accompaniment. Of course this was the contemporary convention – one which persisted as far as the Beethoven Op 30 Sonatas – but there’s no doubt (from Mozart’s writing) that this was no mere unthinking acceptance of a tradition. Although the Variations included here (they date from 1781, by which time Mozart had settled in Vienna) distribute musical interest much more equally between the two players, there is evidence that even these were conceived as piano music, with the violin part being added later.

I raise this point mainly because my only (niggling…) complaint about this otherwise outstanding release is that the sound balance clearly favours the violinist, and puts the fortepianist very much in the background. Happily, Gatti’s silky sustained tone (he plays an 1789 Laurentius Storioni) is so easily distinguished from the drier, more intimate sound of Alvini’s 1785 Anton Waller fortepiano, that the ear soon finds a way of hearing the music the way Mozart intended it. But I do wish the engineers (and Gatti himself, who needs to take more of a back seat when he’s contributing a mere harmonic line or accompanying figure) had brought the piano further forward for us.

That aside, I have nothing but praise for this issue. Gatti and Alvini play as if entranced by this music: everything is beautifully polished and fresh. As with other Arcana issues, there is an excellent (and scholarly) booklet, which occupies a central position in a lavishly decorated triptych-like case. Recommended to all serious collectors, and not just to students of this repertory or this period.

Peter J Lawson



 



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