Isabelle Faust / Alexander Melnikov

Mozart: Sonatas for Fortepiano & Violin, Vol. 2

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Mozart's sonatas for fortepiano and violin, as they were designed in the composer's time, have received several strong recordings, but the advent of historically oriented performance in the music of Mozart has made room for plenty more. This release, the second in a series by fortepianist Alexander Melnikov and violinist Isabelle Faust, has an entirely distinctive profile. Melnikov uses a modern copy of a 1795 Walter fortepiano, and Faust a Stradivarius with gut strings. At the most general level, Melnikov exploits the potentialities of the fortepiano nicely, with a sharp, bright tone that sparkles in rapid runs while not losing the Mozartian grace of the music. Moreover, there is an uncanny sense in the pair's performance of the innovative qualities of these sonatas. Perhaps more than any other genre, the violin-and-piano sonata was new in Mozart's time, and he shaped it mightily. As the "fortepiano and violin" title promises, the piano has a dominant role, and there are few passages where the violin leads off with an independent melody, but throughout, Mozart is experimenting with the relationship between the two instruments, and it's this that Melnikov and Faust grasp keenly. The big set of variations at the end of the Violin Sonata in F major K. 376, offers Mozart a wide field for such experimentation, and the performance here is extremely exciting. Harmonia Mundi keeps it all clear with superb Teldex Studio sound, and the result is a performance that makes these sonatas come alive.

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