Mozart: Violin Sonata in C, K6; Violin Sonata in B flat, K378; Violin Sonata in G, K379; Violin Sonata in F, K547

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LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Violin Sonata in C, K6; Violin Sonata in B flat, K378; Violin Sonata in G, K379; Violin Sonata in F, K547
PERFORMER: Rachel Podger (violin), Gary Cooper (fortepiano)
Period recordings of Mozart’s ‘Sonatas for keyboard with violin accompaniment’ (as they were published) are surprisingly scarce. Which makes this new disc all the more welcome. Gary Cooper and Rachel Podger have both made their mark in Baroque repertoire. But on this showing they are natural Mozartians, phrasing discerningly, summoning plenty of temperament when required, yet never over-egging the pudding when the composer is in guileless vein. The finest of these sonatas is the G major, K379, with its rhapsodic opening Adagio and turbulent G minor Allegro. Playing on an attractively sonorous copy of a Walter fortepiano, Cooper immediately impresses with his subtlety of touch and delicacy of timing; and when Podger enters you know that this is going to be a true chamber partnership, with the players responding creatively to each other’s phrasing. Then, in the G minor Allegro, the duo justify their fierce tempo with the mingled precision, astringency and passionate sweep of their playing – whoever said that period equalled small-scale? No performance could persuade me that K6, begun when Mozart was hardly out of nappies, is other than rococo composing by numbers. But Podger and Cooper nicely catch the faux-naif grace and simplicity of the ‘easy sonata for beginners’, K547. And their supple, elegant give-and-take and touches of fantasy in the B flat Sonata, K378, epitomise their close rapport throughout these performances. The big, resonant church acoustic is not quite ideal for this music, though I soon adjusted to it. Memorable modern-instrument recordings of the three mature sonatas include the powerful, slightly Romanticised Perlman and Barenboim (DG) and the more Classically conceived Grumiaux and Klien (Philips). But if you prefer the tangier, less opulent sound world of period instruments, the colour and imaginative vitality of this young British duo can hardly fail to give pleasure. Richard Wigmore