MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing from

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Complete Sonatas for Keyboard and Violin
Gary Cooper (fortepiano)
Rachel Podger (violin)
rec. June 2004 – January 2009. DDD/DSD
Reviewed as streamed from individual volumes in 24/192 hi-res stereo (Volumes 7 and 8 in 16-bit stereo)
Also available to download separately.

Reviewing Rachel Podger’s recent recording of Mozart fragmentary sonatas for keyboard and violin, as reconstructed by Timothy Jones, and with Christopher Glynn, for Channel Classics (CCSSA42721 - review), I noticed that these earlier recordings, with Gary Cooper at the keyboard, had been only partially reviewed here on MusicWeb: Volume 1 earned Recording of the Month status – review – and that seems to have been it. If the recordings of the completed works were as attractive as that of the fragments, the omission needed to be repaired.

The headline news is that the separate releases are individually well worthwhile, though most of them are now download only – only Volume 3 remains widely available on SACD – and the box set can be found at an attractive price, around £36, albeit advertised as in plain, common or garden CD format rather than SACD or as a hi-res download. The separate volumes can also be obtained from as downloads ranging from mp3 up to flac 24/192 and DSD, and at prices from €8.99 to €39.99. The 24/192 streamed versions to which I have listened are close to the top of that tree, and very good they are, too, but that’s hardly surprising in view of this label’s reputation for high quality sound.

Obviously, these sonatas are not earth-shatteringly important in the development of classical music in general or that of Mozart in particular, but there is, as Shakespeare’s Prince Hal observes, something refreshingly attractive about small beer. The remark may have been intended as a put-down to the self-important Poins, but many a truth is spoken in jest. This is chamber music on a domestic scale – one of the sonatas, No.36, is even advertised as ‘for beginners’, but those who have tried to cope with Mozart’s ‘simple’ piano sonatas will know that such terms are comparative. One glance at the score shows that the keyboard part of even this sonata is definitely not for beginners; nor does its small-scale mean that it sounds facile or trite. It’s possible to imagine it being trivialised, like Eine kleine Nachtmusik, which can sound the tacky musical equivalent of a Mozart-kugel in the wrong hands, but that's certainly not the case here.

Writing about the completed fragments on the new recording, I commented that it mattered very much who was playing this music. I was drawing an analogy with Sir Charles Mackerras’ recordings of the Newbould completions of Schubert, but the same applies to these ‘regular’ sonatas. The chief onus in most of them is on the keyboard player, as is the case with No.36, though some of its immediate predecessors were more evenly balanced between the two instruments. Christopher Glynn’s contribution to the new fragments recording is one of the pluses, but Gary Cooper provides the rock on which most of these regular sonatas is centred. He uses a variety of fortepianos and, while some of them are a touch drier and less refulgent than Glynn’s instrument, few would find the sound of them off-putting. I say that with caution: my colleague Christopher Salocks would disagree with me, as his review of a recent recording of the Beethoven Triple Concerto makes clear.

Those totally averse to the period keyboard should turn to the Hyperion series from Cédric Tiberghien, on the modern piano, and Alina Ibragimova, each volume of which comes in the form of two CDs for the price of one and, like the Channel Classics series, combines works from different periods in Mozart’s development. Of the fifth and final volume in the series, containing Nos. 6, 7, 19, 28, 35, the Variations in G, K359, and the Sonata in B-flat, K370 (CDA68175), Dominy Clements wrote that they bring us ‘a poetic and playful Mozart that suits the present day very well indeed’ – review . It’s one of the main virtues of both the Hyperion and Channel Classics sets that the performers make a strong case not only for the later sonatas but also for the earlier works. Nos. 6 and 7 (K11 and K12) date from 1764, when Mozart was eight, yet both sets of performers reveal little unconventional felicities in both, Ibragimova and Tiberghien on that fifth volume, Podger and Cooper on their final 2-CD set (CCSSA28019). Like the Channel Classics, the Hyperion series in total runs to eight CDs or the equivalent thereof, with each volume available to download in 16-bit lossless for £8.99 and in 24-bit hi-res for £13.50 – from

The other recent series of recordings of these sonatas is still continuing apace, with Volume 3 of the Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov offerings due for release in late May 2021. It offers a direct rival to the Channel Classics set in that the performances are on period instruments, including the dreaded (by some) fortepiano. For Richard Hanlon, reviewing Volume 1, its successor couldn’t come quickly enough – review – yet we seem to have missed it when it appeared. I downloaded it in 24-bit sound from, where 24-bit was still available for the same price as 16-bit ($13.21) when I checked.

Volume 2 contains K376, K305, K301 and K378 and runs for 63:21. Melnikov’s fortepiano is a 2014 copy of a 1795 Walter, while Faust plays the 1704 Stradivarius ‘Sleeping Beauty’ from the L-Bank Baden Württemberg. Interestingly, the keyboard instrument sounds slightly different from the copy of a 1795 Walter which Cooper plays on some of the Channel Classics recordings, including Volume 1 – it’s lighter in tone, a little less dry sounding. That’s due, perhaps, to the slightly different qualities of the modern instrument makers, or the recording acoustic. Either way, it didn’t materially affect my enjoyment of both sets of performances.

K376 (No. 24), which opens the Harmonia Mundi album, also opens Volume 6 of the Channel Classics series. Both performances are very enjoyable in their own rights, and the difference in keyboard tone which is apparent elsewhere is less noticeable here. (Cooper’s fortepiano is not specified for this recording.) There is, however, one major difference which may determine your preference, in that the first movement is almost twice as long from Podger and Cooper, not because of any major difference in interpreting the allegro tempo indication, but because they include all the repeats.

This is one of the most interesting of the sonatas from 1779 and 1781, and you may well feel that the music is sufficiently mature for it to stand the longer treatment. I would be inclined to agree with that opinion – it’s the latest sonata from the group of eight published by Artaria in 1781 – but I didn’t feel unduly short-changed by the shorter treatment from Faust and Melnikov.

Both pairs, however, take all the repeats and give due weight to the opening allegro moderato of K378, which closes Volume 2 of the Harmonia Mundi and Volume 1 of the Channel Classics. Here it’s the second movement, andantino sostenuto e cantabile, where there’s a different in tempo. Both performances are undeniably cantabile, but Podger and Cooper give the music a little more space. Again, however, the differences on paper mean much less in practice; I could easily live with either of these recordings.

Nor is there any major difference in recording quality between the 24-bit download of the Harmonia Mundi and the Channel Classics as streamed in 24-bit. The latter is consistently excellent throughout the series.

In a sense, it’s pointless to make direct comparison with the Hyperion recordings. The sound of Tiberghien’s modern piano is inevitably warmer, more comfortable than the fortepiano. If I have a marginal preference for the sharper tones of the earlier instrument, I’m happy with both – and who can say that Mozart might not have preferred the modern instrument? It’s not the case that what I call a more comfortable tone trivialises the music or makes the listener more complacent in hearing it.

K376 opens Volume 2 of the Hyperion recordings. The 24-bit sound quality is in every way the equal of the Channel Classics and the Harmonia Mundi. Like Faust and Melnikov, Ibragimova and Tiberghien observe the repeats in the first movement, and the extra warmth of the modern instrument doesn’t preclude some light and nimble playing. These performers allow the second movement a little more time to develop than either of the other recordings, a little slower than might seem right for the andante marking, but without any sense that they are over-egging the pudding. The slightly slower tempo seems more suited to the modern instruments.  The Rondeau finale is especially beguiling, an apparently simple tune, but it’s clear that this is the art to conceal art in all three recordings.

As always with this label, too, the notes – by Misha Donat – are among the best features. Those who prefer modern instruments need have no qualms about investing in some or all of these twofers – and remember that they come with a price advantage, especially as downloads.

If you are planning to purchase these sonatas in one go, the Channel Classics box would be a good choice. It’s available only as an 8-CD set, while the individual volumes are mostly available only as downloads in mp3, 16- and 24-bit sound. Guide price for 16-bit £7.99, for 24/96 £11.99 and for 24/192 £12.99. Some but not all dealers offer the pdf booklets; Qobuz are among the good guys both in terms of price and in offering the booklets.

Robert Graves recounts in Goodbye to all that how he was rebuked at end-of-term responsions for preferring some authors to others – not at all the done thing in a fledgling English faculty which was trying to imitate the study of the Greek and Latin classics. Some of that ethos lingered 40 years later when I read English, and Graves was Professor of Poetry. The positive side is that I was encouraged to see all sides of the issue, but I’m aware that it sometimes leaves me sitting on an uncomfortable fence. At least, I always try to give readers some ammunition to make their own choice. Forced to plump, however, for one of these recordings for my Desert Island, I would carry off the Channel Classics box set.  The only reservation would be that the documentation is apparently nothing like as thorough as that provided for the individual albums.

Brian Wilson

Volume 1: CCSSA21804 [77:05]
Violin Sonata No.27 in G, K379 [20:49]
Violin Sonata No.1 in C, K6 [14:31]
Violin Sonata No.36 in F, K547 ‘For Beginners’ [21:41]
Violin Sonata No.26 in B flat, K378 [19:52]
rec. June 2004.

Volume 2: CCSSA22805 [73:14]
Violin Sonata No. 20 in C, K303 [11:06]
Violin Sonata No.2 in D, K7 [14:06]
Violin Sonata No.18 in G, K301 [13:57]
Violin Sonata No.15 in F, K30 [10:23]
Violin Sonata No.33 in E flat K481 [23:40]
rec. October 2004.

Volume 3: CCSSA23606 [78:05]
Violin Sonata No.32 in B-flat, K454 [22:02]
Violin Sonata No.13 in C, K28 [6:02]
Andante and fugue in a minor, K402 [11:30]
Violin Sonata No.31 in C, K404 (unfinished) [3:46]
Violin Sonata No.3 in B-flat, K8 [12:19]
Violin Sonata No.28 in E-flat K380 [22:20]
rec. August 2005.

Volume 4: CCSSA24607 [75:57]
Violin Sonata No.19 in E-flat, K302 [14:38]
Violin Sonata No.4 in G, K9 [13:16]
Violin Sonata No.21 in e minor, K304 [15:11]
Violin Sonata No.14 in D, K29 [7:21]
Violin Sonata No.35 in A, K526 [25:34]
rec. September 2006.

Volume 5: CCSSA25608 [71:07]
Violin Sonata No.22 in A, K305 [16:27]
Violin Sonata No.30 in C, K403 [17:50]
Violin Sonata No.16 in B-flat, K31 [9:53]
Violin Sonata No.23 in D, K306 [26:56]
rec. February 2007.

Volume 6: CSSA26208 [66:20]
Violin Sonata No.24 in F (K376) [19:14]
Violin Sonata No.17 in C, K296 [17:06]
Violin Sonata No.12 in G, K27 [8:50]
Violin Sonata No.25 in F, K377 [21:09]
rec. September 2007.

Volumes 7 and 8: CCSSA28109 [55:18 + 65:00]
Allegro in B-flat, K372 [8:05]
6 Variations in g minor, K 374b, ‘Hélas, J’ai Perdu Mon Amant’ [11:08]
Sonata in E-flat, K 26 [8:26]
Fantasia in c minor, K396 [10:29]
Variations (12) in G on ‘La Bergère Célimène’, K374a (K359) [16:57]
Sonata in B Flat, K10 [13:55]
Sonata in G, K11 [10:07]
Sonata in A, K12 [6:38]
Sonata in F, K13 [13:46]
Sonata in C, K14 [10:36]
Sonata in B Flat, K15 [9:42]
rec. April 2008, January 2009.

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing