Isabelle Faust / Alexander Melnikov

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sonatas for fortepiano & violin, Vol. 1 - K.304, 306 & 525

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The Mozart sonatas for fortepiano and violin, as they are accurately called, represented a genre that was beginning to become old-fashioned in Mozart's own time, with the piano the dominant instrument and the violin, during Mozart's youth at least, an almost optional accompaniment. They aren't played as often as Mozart's other chamber music, but there are many ways to play them. It is good to have a spate of new recordings oriented toward historical performance; these put the listener closer to Mozart's experimental frame of mind in this genre. This release is designated volume 1 and includes only mature works, so perhaps the series will not cover the works of the child Mozart, as did the set by violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien, which loaded up each album with early works. Whatever is eventually included, the release is well worth your time. Fortepianist Alexander Melnikov and violinist Isabelle Faust keep the overall volume level low and the mood intimate, making it easy to imagine the pieces as the true chamber music they are. And within this framework they etch out wonderful detail. The Sonata in A major, K. 526, which features the most vigorous dialogue between piano and violin, is especially strong, and you might start sampling with the first movement, where the daring of Mozart's harmonic treatment of the development section (start about three and a half minutes in) is starkly exposed. In general, Melnikov and Faust avoid making these works sound like proto-Beethoven; nor do they treat them as salon music. So what happens is that you get a look into Mozart's mind as he develops the genre into the modern violin-and-piano sonata. Harmonia Mundi opts for rather chilly sound in Berlin's Teldex studio, but everything is transparent.

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