Simonide Braconi / Francesco Manara / Massimo Polidori

Mozart: Duets for Violin & Viola; Divertimento

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Of all the chamber music he was to write during his short lifetime, Mozart only visited duos for violin and viola twice; this may seem strange given his own personal talents on both instruments. Even rarer is the string trio (violin, viola, and cello), for which there is a single example. The composition of the two duos is a favorite story among historians for it is said that Mozart wrote the two splendid works for his often inebriated, destitute friend Michael Haydn so that the latter could complete a set of six duos for publication. The trio (divertimento) dates from a full five years later and is easily on a par with any of his more frequently performed, mature chamber works. Performing on this concerto album are violinist Francesco Manara, violist Simonide Braconi, and cellist Massimo Polidori. Both the duos and the divertimento are executed with an abundance of technical polish, brilliant articulation, careful phrasing, and careful balance that lets Braconi's deep, throaty viola sound easily penetrate. Intonation is not perfect from any of the three players, but the occasional slips do not greatly affect the enjoyment of the album. What's most engaging about this performance is the youthful energy and vitality with which the three musicians play. Even the Adagios are not played too seriously or allowed to become mired in drama. Rather, one track after another propels listeners through these highly enjoyable, sometimes underrated compositions.

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