Although Joseph Haydn's influence on Wolfgang Mozart is well documented and well known, Mozart also admired the music of Joseph's brother Michael. He was impressed enough, for example, by the opening of Michael's Requiem of 1771 to begin his own famous work in a similar fashion twenty years later.
The works on this double disc represent a collaboration of sorts between the two composers. Haydn had received a commission from the Archbishop of Salzburg for six duos for violin and viola, but because of illness could only complete four. According to Constanze Mozart, to ensure his friend Haydn still got his fee, Mozart quickly wrote the other two for him, roughly in Haydn's style - meaning plenty of figuration, above all.
The set was published in 1788 under Haydn's name, although later Mozart apparently requested their return, undoubtedly because he valued them highly himself. And as it turned out, there was greater acclaim for Mozart's ghost-written pair, and the difference between the two composers' works is immediately apparent - Haydn's set is more conservative, and the viola plays a more supportive role - sometimes no more than a continuo - whereas Mozart's works are true duos, with soloists dialoguing on equal terms, especially in the B flat piece.
Consequently, many recordings have been made of the Mozart pair (here, for example), far fewer of Haydn's. This may be the first recording of all six together since the first, by Kelemen and Kokas on Hungaroton in 2007.
Though lacking Mozart's stamp of genius, Haydn's four duos are nevertheless beautifully crafted, genial works. They are in some ways very much alike - similar lengths and tempos especially - but all have their own character, not only in their tonality, but in terms of melody and mood.
Maya Magub and Judith Busbridge first began playing together in the renowned London Mozart Players. Both play period instruments, although Busbridge's viola is nevertheless 'anachronistic', in that it dates from 1593! But both soloists have huge experience, respectively in the Mainardi Trio and Dante Quartet in particular, both as founder members. This is bread and butter music for them, but there is no sign of complacency in their playing, which is thoughtful and expressive.
The booklet notes, written my Magub, are brief but sufficient. Smaller photos of the soloists and more information would have been preferable, though. The sound quality is pretty good. Some background traffic rumble is audible, more so in the Mozart works, which make more expressive use of quiet. There is a slight sense that tracks have been faded down to silence a fraction of a second too quickly - probably to hide that traffic noise. But all of this is only really noticeable through headphones, and is far from obtrusive. A collector's item, without doubt.