Rémy Cardinale / Helene Schmitt

Mozart & Beethoven: Sonates pour Pianoforte & Violon

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The handsome releases of France's Alpha label, pairing music with directly or indirectly relevant artworks that are analyzed in detail in the booklet, offer listeners an opportunity to reflect on the connections between art and music at a given time. Sometimes they also simply serve to evoke a historical moment authentically and vividly. Mozart and the artist involved here, Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, were almost exact contemporaries. The subject of Vigée-Le Brun's painting, Russian Countess Skavronskaya, had an eventful life that included a stint as mistress of Grigori Potemkin, the notorious courtier of Catherine the Great. The historical-instrument performances of Mozart's violin and piano sonatas by fortepianist Rémy Cardinale and violinist Hélene Schmitt are spacious, dramatic, and a bit unsettled, emphasizing Mozart's incipient transformation of the traditionally female genre of the piano sonata accompanied by violin into something new. Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 1 in D major, Op. 12/1, makes the perfect conclusion; in many genres Beethoven followed Haydn, but in the violin sonata he followed Mozart in brilliance, beauty, and restless elaboration on existing forms. An exceptional performance of this repertory, splendidly presented and recorded.

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