To tie in with his 250th birthday celebrations Mozart’s
violin sonatas, or the sonatas for keyboard
and violin as the composer described them, are
currently being given a considerable amount of exposure on
swift check in the catalogues reveals a large number of recordings. This is not surprising
as these scores contain an incredible wealth of high quality
material. One wonders why they are not heard more often. For this
new volume Nishizaki and Loeb join
an impressive list of partnerships to have embarked on a
It is hard to
obtain a definitive number, however most reference books credit
Mozart with composing over forty such sonatas, over a period
of some twenty-five years. With these scores we are witnessing
the advance of the modern violin sonata with new life injected
into the genre. It is said that Mozart was primarily responsible
for bringing the dramatic violin sonata to a state of near
perfection in very much the same way that his contemporary
Haydn developed the form of the string quartet.
Composed in Vienna in 1781 the Six Variations minor K360
were probably intended for the use of a talented piano pupil
the Countess Maria Karolina Thiennes de Rumbeke.
The Andante and Fugue is more commonly known
as the Violin Sonata No. 29 K402 and was composed
in 1782 for his wife Constanze Weber shortly after their
marriage. It was left incomplete at Mozart’s death in 1791
with Abbé Maximilian Stadler completing the score. Stadler
was also to complete the unfinished Violin Sonata No.
30 K403 from 1782. That was another work thought to have
been intended for his wife Constanze. Stadler’s completed
version was later published as the ‘Sonate facile’.
The Sonata No. 17 K570 was composed in 1789 for
solo piano. It was published posthumously as a Sonata
for piano with violin accompaniment but the arrangement
is not thought to be from Mozart’s pen.
calibre of the Nishizaki-Loeb partnership is outstanding.
They provide expressive playing that is light and delicate.
Their performances overflow with imagination and a high degree
of intimacy. Nishizaki is highly experienced and has sold
possibly the most recordings of any violinist. She has the
advantage of a technique that is comfortably secure with
a pleasing tone that is crisp and cool. There is a purity
to her playing, fused with a relaxed manner that is hard
to resist. The elaborate piano part in the hands of Loeb
is natural and unforced. The duo’s choice of speeds tends
to be rather on the slow side for my taste. However, in the allegro of
K570 (track 6) the players demonstrate that they can quicken
when they choose. I especially enjoyed their sensitive performance
of the adagio of the Sonata K570 which is tender
and highly compelling. Also impressive is the closing movement rondo of
the same Sonata, dazzlingly played with joy and vitality,
and totally free of affectation. Something special is also
happening in the Sonata, K403 at several points in
the allegro - allegretto (track 4) especially at points
1.27-2.11; 3.30-4.09 and 5.18-6.26 where the unison playing
a competitive market there are numerous alternative versions
of complete sets of the Mozart violin sonatas. My preferred
versions are the three volumes on period instruments from violinist Rachel
Podger and Gary Cooper. These are mature,
characterful and near flawless performances, using fortepiano
or harpsichord. They’re on Channel Classics.
those wanting a broad selection of Mozart's violin
sonatas performed on modern instruments, I confidently endorse
the distinguished partnership of Itzhak
Perlman and Daniel Barenboim. They offer aristocratic musicality
and impressive refinement in the sonatas 17-28; 32-34 and
the sonatina K547. These are on a four disc set from Deutsche
Grammophon 463 749-2. I also enjoy the four disc set from
Szymon Goldberg and Radu Lupu for their strong personality
and vitality (Decca 448 526-2).
The present Naxos recording has a slightly forward balance
and is exceptionally clear. At times I could almost imagine
being positioned adjacent to Nishizaki. The booklet notes by Keith Anderson are
written to his usual high standard. These are excellent performances
that are packed with quality music of extraordinary interest.
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