Marie Kuijken / Veronica Kuijken

W.A. Mozart: Sonatas for Four Hands

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Sisters Marie and Veronica Kuijken say that their familial relationship to conducting veteran Sigiswald Kuijken "cannot be denied but on the other hand, should not be too strongly stressed." Fair enough, and with this release covering Mozart's keyboard duet music they enter chronological territory in which the elder Kuijken was never terribly comfortable and do well. They play paired modern copies of an instrument by German builder Andreas Stein: not the usual choice for Mozart's Vienna period, but a sound he was known to have liked. And they get excellent results. The volume top end of this fortepiano (not conventionally "pianoforte" as the credits state) is not big, but the instruments are agile in fast passagework and, more important, capable of an exceptional variety of textures and attacks. The players exploit these beautifully, often creating almost orchestral effects. Sample the Adagio introduction of the Sonata for piano four hands in F major, K. 497 (track 4), with all the shades of color that emerge from its murky chromaticism. Even in the big outer movements the division between full textures and lightly accompanied melody is shaded off in interesting ways. Then, when Mozart does exploit the full capabilities of his new instrument at climaxes, the effect is stirring. Props also go to the Challenge Classics engineers, working at Galaxy Studios in the Belgian resort town of Mol; they create an intimate sound that picks up the details and stands in convincingly for an 18th century drawing room. A really fresh Mozart recording, strongly recommended.

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