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CD: Crotchet

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Sonatas
CD 1
No. 18 in G, K301/K293a (1778) [16:03]
No. 19 in E flat, K302/K293b (1778) [13:50]
No. 20 in C, K303/K293c (1778) [12:45]
No. 21 in E minor, K304/K300c (1778) [14:48]
No. 22 in A, K305/K293d (1778) [16:24]
CD 2
No. 32 in B flat, K454 (1784) [21:37]
No. 33 in E flat, K481 (1785) [24:22]
No. 35 in A, K526 (1787) [24:37]
Jaap Schröder (violin); Lambert Orkis (fortepiano).
rec. Chậteaubriant, France, 25-28 August 1990 (CD1) and All Saints Church, Petersham, Surrey, September 1989 (CD2)
VIRGIN VERITAS 693 2182 [73:59 + 72:06]
Experience Classicsonline

The Sonata that kicks off this set is given a marvellously sprightly performance by Schröder and Orkis. Lambert Orkis is possibly best known as accompanist of Anne-Sophie Mutter, but this is by no means his only activity. For the first disc, he plays on a Christopher Clark fortepiano, after Anton Walter. There is a lovely ping to the attack, but legato is not discounted. The gut-stringed violin chosen by Schröder is throughout a 1684 Joffredus Cappa.

Schröder and Orkis project the G-major joie-de-vivre of K301 perfectly. Exchanges between the two instruments are a constant delight, and the forward recording means that octave statements sound appropriately forceful. The concluding Allegro is gentilité personified. Orkis makes judicious of the mute.

The key of E flat brings with it more outdoor, perhaps hunting, associations. Mozart provides all that, and more. Schröder and Orkis respond well to the bright and breezy first movement while honouring the drama of the development. In stark contrast comes the gentle Rondeau, which finds Schröder in particular on tender form; Orkis nearly matches him but not quite - some of his phrasing tends towards the lumpy.

The C major, K303, is the only one of the sonatas presented here from 1778 that opens with a slow introduction. It also, unusually, recurs during the course of the movement. There is much brilliant fingerwork from Orkis in the Allegro, with Mozart exploiting the open feel of C-major. The second movement is a Tempo di menuetto which is actually longer than the first movement (7:14 against 5:31), an extended essay in gentilité, with much lovely shading from both players.

Recorded competition increases significantly with the E-minor sonata, possibly the most famous of Mozart’s compositions for this combination - Magaloff/Szigeti and Pires/Dumay join the fray, for example. The added transparency accorded by the instruments of Schröder and Orkis pays handsome dividends without lessening the impact of the minor mode of utterance and its attendant pathos - pathos occasioned by the recent death of the composer’s mother. The second movement, a shadowy Tempo di menuetto, is particularly effective in transcending the perceived expressive limitations of its form. Orkis and Schröder play with great grace.

The A major, K305, despite its sunny home key, includes some surprisingly dark passages in this first movement development. The second movement is a theme and variations and, while Mozart’s explorations of his chosen theme are not too far-reaching, they are exquisitely crafted. There is some expert playing here from Orkis in particular, but the most important thing to note is that this movement is a constant delight.

The competition in these earlier sonatas is perhaps less than one might be inclined to think. On modern instruments, the principal pretenders to your purse are Barenboim/Perlman - I am no great fan of either, yet I derive much pleasure from their committed accounts. We should not however overlook Orkis/Mutter and Uchida/Steinberg. On Channel Classics, and in a more overtly historicist mode, there are fine performances from Rachel Podger and Gary Cooper.

The three Sonatas on the second disc were all composed in Vienna and are representative of the mature Mozart. The B flat, K454, was written for the virtuoso Regina Strinasacchi (1764-1839), and as a result the writing is more advanced than the sonatas heard on CD1. For all three sonatas on the second disc, Orkis plays on a Adlam/Burnett after Heilmann, 1785. The instrument has a little more depth, and fits in well with the meatier writing here. The dialogue between Schröder and Orkis is finely tuned - as it needs to be, as some of the gestures Mozart opts for require a high degree of togetherness. The central movement, an andante, is expansive and intimate. Schröder and Orkis render the music with an openness of expression that is most appealing. The finale - a homely Allegretto - is a constant source of delight, with many deft touches of humour.

The first movement of the E flat Sonata, K481, has more meat on the bone, and both Schröder and Orkis honour this with a more robust approach. The Adagio speaks of poignant, deep things. Mozart’s skeletal way with textures here gives the music a feeling of delicacy that could be shattered at any moment. Its fragility is accentuated by their emphatic way with the opening Molto allegro; the finale, an Allegretto set of variations, is calm and elegant in its reach. Schröder plays the melodies characterised by wide leaps most convincingly.

Finally, the A major, K526. Directly contemporary with Don Giovanni, it shares that opera’s compositional assurance. Textures are magnificently transparent, as if all were clear. The seeming ease of inspiration is reflected in this expert account, something nowhere more obvious than in the extended (11:36) slow movement, a model of sustained eloquence. The finale, a Presto, is the perfect, busy (almost opera buffa) way to round off a lovely set of discs.

Colin Clarke 


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