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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Sonatas for keyboard and violin – Volume 4
Sonata in F major K377 (1781) [21:16]
Sonata in B flat major K8 (1759) [10:07]
Variations in G minor on ‘Hélas, j’ai perdu mon amant’ K360 (1781) [10:52]
Sonata in C major K303 (1782) [12:02]
Sonata in C major K403 (completed by Maximilian Stadler) [16:55]
Sonata in F major K13 (1764) [13:03]
Sonata in C major K28 (1766) [6:12]
Sonata in E flat major K26 (1766) [8:40]
Sonata in B flat major K378 (c.1779) [20:07]
Alina Ibragimova (violin)
Cédric Tiberghein (piano)
rec. 2015, Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth HYPERION CDA68164 [54:19 + 64:58]
This is a series of Mozart’s violin sonatas that has grown on me the more I’ve listened to it, and has become another one of those sets that, by hook or by crook, I have become determined to acquire complete. Previous volumes have been reviewed positively on these pages: volume 1 (review), volume 2 (review), and volume 3 (review) all building on the formula of the Mozart ‘recital’, with early and later sonatas placed adjacent, or at least mixed to create a programme whose attractions go further than mere chronological order.
The equal partnership between violin and piano is set out nicely in the Sonata in F major K377, the recorded balance giving the keyboard plenty of weight, and allowing the violin to blend as much as possible when it takes on the accompaniment role. The light touch of both musicians make the final movement a sequence of delightful phrases, Mozart’s subtle surprises sounding as fresh as ever. The move from such sophistication makes the Sonata in B flat major K8 sound relatively naïve in places, though for a seven or eight-year old we can certainly make a few allowances. Youthful charm is overtaken by minor-key melancholy in the Variations in G minor on ‘Hélas, j’ai perdu mon amant’ K360, a piece that to my ears always seems to anticipate Schubert in ways both tangible, and no doubt in an association of comparable moods. The unusual slow opening of Sonata in C major K303 is an ideal follow-on from the galloping final variation of the previous work, its quirky changes of tempo of this and the final minuet negotiated nicely and with lively wit by these musicians.
C major continues with the Sonata K403, though the character of each piece could hardly be more different. Dedicated to Mozart’s new wife Constanze Weber, this later piece is all elegance and poise, its deceptive transparency leading to the published title of ‘Sonata facile’. Composer and music historian Maximillian Stadler’s completion of the finale is stylistically seamless. The Sonata in F major K13 was part of a set commissioned by Queen Charlotte while the Mozarts were in London, and is another precocious masterpiece with a lovely minor-key central movement. Enthusiastic energy radiates from both movements of the little Sonata in C major K28, something it shares with the Sonata in E flat major K26, a piece allowed the luxury of three movements and with another surprisingly expressive middle movement. Mozart’s ability to create entire worlds from very few notes never fails to work its magic, and this is also true of the very fine Sonata in B flat major K378, the origins of which are shrouded in mystery. Even where the lines are fast and lively the essence is often little more than a two-part invention, those extra touches invariably creating something inimitable and vastly precious.
Excellent performances such as these stand on their own merits, but comparisons must be made. Hänssler Classic has recently brought out a set with Dmitry Sitkovetsky and pianist Konstantin Lifschitz which has many positive qualities. The recording in this case is a little less natural sounding but perfectly acceptable, a heavier use of pedal in the piano and more accented rhythms in the finale of K378 pointing to a different, arguably more modern kind of engagement with the music. I’m always happy to return to Anne-Sophie Mutter and
Lambert Orkis’s set on Deutsche Grammophon (review), but after Ibragimova you have to re-attune your musical tastebuds to Mutter’s more vibrato-laden sound. There is a warmth of empathy and intelligence of interpretation that goes beyond likes or dislikes of vibrato in this case however, and I still find myself drawn in and almost hypnotised by this set. Ibragimova and Tiberghien are more neutral but second to none in terms of subtlety of colour and touch, and as close as anyone I can name to the actual spirit of Mozart. For this I commend them heartily, while acknowledging that there are as many ways to play great music as there are great musicians.