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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for piano and violin in B flat major, K454 (1784) [22:31]
Sonata for piano and violin in C major, K296 (1778) [17:44]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Divertimento for violin and piano (1928 transc.1934) [21:58]
Esther Hoppe (violin)
Alasdair Beatson (piano)
rec. December 2012, Radiostudio Zurich
CLAVES 50-1403 [62:32]

This is somewhat unusual programming and therefore all the more interesting. The cover photograph, taken by Gjon Mili for Life magazine, shows Stravinsky holding a negative image portrait of Mozart but otherwise the notes are silent on any rationale. In any case bouncing Mozart against Stravinsky’s Divertimento allows the latter central place in the programming.

Esther Hoppe and Alasdair Beatson form a most congenial and thoughtful duo. Their Mozart playing is neither especially emotive nor winsome, charting a sure stylistic course. They bring quiet warmth to the Largo opening to the sonata in B flat major, K454 where Beatson’s rolled chords prove resonant and strong. He indeed takes a core role in this sonata brace, whilst Hoppe’s well-equalized, neatly stylish playing impresses too. The deft interplay in the sonata’s slow movement attests to their strong ensemble, and Beatson’s dynamic gradients ensure variety of colour and nuance. The finale reinforces these qualities; smallish-scaled and buoyant musicality. They traverse the slow movement of the companion sonata in C major, K296 with particularly touching phrasing whilst the rhythm in the finale trips along with dapper wit.

The Divertimento is a 1934 condensed transcription for violin and piano of The Fairy’s Kiss, his allegorical ballet in four tableaux, written in 1928. At the same time he undertook an orchestral transcription. The qualities that held this duo in good stead in the two Mozart sonatas make themselves apparent here too. There is the crisp rhythm, the strong ensemble, the feeling for an appropriate sound-world, and clean articulation. Added to this is an appreciation of the wit laced in the score, as well as sureness when it comes to the exciting dance motifs. Hoppe allows herself a significantly increased range of colours and vibrato speeds in the Adagio opening of the Pas de deux finale. She makes no attempt to acidify her tone, remaining thoroughly musical throughout. Beatson is a splendid partner, always conscious of the music’s direction and shifting character.

With clean, clear sound quality and good notes this is a most attractively played recital.

Jonathan Woolf