Full of variety and invention, this is delightful music calculated to have wide appeal.
Graham Rogers 2010
Some of Mozart’s earliest compositions were sonatas for violin and keyboard, written for the child prodigy to play himself as he was hauled around the courts and salons of Europe like a performing monkey. This didn’t put him off, however: violin sonatas run as a thread throughout Mozart’s life, from brilliant juvenilia to a sophisticated masterpiece akin to his mature concertos – the A major Sonata KV 526, which rounds off this new release from Duo Amadè.
The first two works on this latest volume of a projected complete cycle are from the collection Mozart published in 1781, having just fled his parochial Salzburg home to settle in Vienna. A hugely popular form with the domestic market, the violin sonatas were intended to bring in much-needed funds. Full of variety and invention, this is delightful music calculated to have wide appeal.
Violinist Catherine Mackintosh and fortepianist Geoffrey Govier, playing on copies of instruments from Mozart’s time, have 18th century performing practice down pat: though historically-informed, theirs is natural and engaging music-making. Sample the fresh, folk-like finale of KV 376 with its cheeky appoggiaturas for a taste of this vibrant approach at its most winning.
Some acclimatising may be necessary for ears accustomed to the saccharine tones of many modern-instrument performances: Mackintosh’s stylistically-appropriate eschewing of vibrato can lead to a slight scrawniness, most noticeable in the slow movements, but the pay-off is great clarity and buoyancy. Govier’s superb fortepiano contribution provides a vitality and subtlety rarely achieved by velvety modern grands. There’s ample gravitas where required too, notably in the grander-scaled KV 526 of 1787. The poignant minor-key episodes at the heart of the multi-faceted Andante recall the heart-rending Adagio of Piano Concerto No.23 – another great A major work.
Duo Amadè might even be accused of being too serious at times: comparison with another cycle of the sonatas on period instruments – Rachel Podger and Gary Cooper on Channel Classics, completed in 2009 – reveals this latter pair to be more exuberant in the bubbly Rondeau of KV 378 for example, contrasting with the deliberate, even cautious approach of Mackintosh and Govier. This is a matter of personal choice, however. Duo Amadè bring a wealth of insight to their stylish and well-recorded performances, making this release eminently recommendable.