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
Schröder and Orkis project the G-major joie-de-vivre
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
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
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
, 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
; 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
, 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.