Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata in G major, K301 [13:12]
Sonata in B flat major, K10 [14:47]
Sonata in E flat major, K481 [22:27]
Sonata in G major, K379 [18:02]
Sonata in F major, K30 [9:05]
Sonata in C major, K14 [10:57]
Sonata in E minor, K304 [15:24]
Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
rec. 29 September – 1 October 2014 in the Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth
HYPERION CDA68091 [50:29 + 53:28]

Mozart composed a considerable number of violin sonatas throughout his creative life, the first being amongst his earliest compositions. The latter are simple works and designated as sonatas for keyboard with violin accompaniment as even, in fact, are the later ones, but in these juvenile essays the violin part does not really bear a distinct profile of its own, existing in the shadows of the melodies and harmonies given to the keyboard. Three of those early sonatas are presented here in this varied selection of sonatas and Alina Ibragimova performs with an understated, unassuming manner in those, allowing Cédric Tiberghien’s playing to stand at the forefront of the sonic balance. Although the seven sonatas selected for these discs are not presented chronologically, by listening to them in order one may trace the development of Mozart’s compositional practice and the resulting widening of expressive range which the performers audibly chart here. Ibragimova plays the Sonata in C, K14 a little more robustly than K10, as befits its more assertive, busy character, and the mischievous way in which the little flicked quavers with grace notes are passed between her and Tiberghien is infectious. But the performers only emerge as equal musical partners in the first of Mozart’s mature violin sonatas, K301, and by the time they reach the Sonata in E flat K481, they project a greater contrast in dynamics than almost anywhere else in this recital, and with a deeper quality of tone, not least in the breadth of the cantabile musical lines of the moving Adagio.

A restrained finesse characterises the performances throughout, even in such a composition as the E minor Sonata K304, which might otherwise invite a sharper line of attack in places, as a companion work to the unsettled A minor Piano Sonata K310, both written at the time of the composer’s mother’s death. Instead, Ibragimova and Tiberghien reserve a greater depth of feeling for the second movement of that Sonata, particularly its major key, wistful middle section, expressing the vulnerability Mozart must have felt at that time in his life. Such restraint does not hold back the expressive nuances of the music itself, even in the simple and fairly foursquare scores of those early sonatas, even though these are child’s play for performers of the calibre of Ibragimova and Tiberghien. That said, the twists and turns of their melodies do sometimes hint at the miraculous ease and fluency of Mozart’s later style, and so the performers’ delightful spontaneity and empathy with that is far from misplaced here. In fact they make these apprentice works a real pleasure to listen to, and it is hard to imagine better performances of them, unless one’s preference is for period performance practice (Tiberghien plays a modern pianoforte – arguably all the better for realising the imitation of a carillon in the second minuet of K14). Their performances on modern instruments outclasses those by Elizabeth and Johannes Jess-Kropfitsch, but match the character and attentiveness of Gérard Poulet and Blandine Verlet in their recordings of all the early sonatas with harpsichord, which were incorporated into Philips’ Complete Mozart Edition.

The later sonatas necessarily require greater sustained concentration on the part of the performers, which they achieve here consistently. K301 smiles, and the Siciliano of its second movement still bears a lilt despite its turn to the minor key. Ibragimova captures a ghostly but controlled tone of playing in K304, using little vibrato, whilst K379 stands in contrast with the warmth of its execution, notably in the spread chords of its very opening, and a nervous way with the G minor Allegro that follows. The second movement variations may surprise somewhat with the jaunty, jolly mood, given Mozart’s marking ‘Andantino cantabile’, but one variation grows out of its predecessor, and the series climaxes with a humorous account of the coda and a sense of musical unity overall. After the intensity of K481’s Adagio there is a similar relaxed manner with its variation finale.

This is by no means the last word in the interpretation of these works as such established recordings as those by Arthur Grumiaux and Walter Klein (again in the Complete Mozart Edition), or Itzhak Perlman and Daniel Barenboim attest, with a similar Classical order and refinement though expressed within a more Romantic quality of tone. Or compared with the unaffected sense of joy and freedom expressed in Henryk Szeryng and Ingrid Haebler’s recordings, Ibragimova sounds, perhaps, surprisingly mystical by virtue of the studied musical presence she evinces in her readings. But the very directness and clarity of Mozart’s style defies an attempt at any definitive execution and this set is as captivating as any, and true to Mozart’s spirit.

Curtis Rogers
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