Mozart: Sonatas for keyboard and violin

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Channel CCS
WORKS: Sonatas for keyboard and violin, Vols 7 and 8: in E flat, K26; in B flat, K10; in G, K11; in A, K12; in F, K13; Allegro in B flat, K372; Six Variations in G minor, ‘Hélas, j’ai perdu mon amant’, K374b; Sonata in E flat, K26; Fantasie in C minor, K396; 12 Variations in G, ‘La Bergère Célimène’
PERFORMER: Gary Cooper (fortepiano), Rachel Podger (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS SA 28109 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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These two discs can be seen as an appendix to Gary Cooper’s and Rachel Podger’s Mozart sonatas series. The single masterpiece here is the Fantasia in C minor K396 – a substantial fragment so dramatically and imaginatively completed after Mozart’s death by Maximilian Stadler that it’s tempting to think he had access to more original material than he admitted.

Puzzlingly, it’s only in the last five bars of Mozart’s autograph that the violin appears at all. Stadler’s completion absorbed that tiny contribution into the piano part, and Cooper’s rather tentative performance presents it in this solo piano form – begging the question, what’s it doing in this context at all?

Mozart’s two sets of variations for piano and violin are based on French themes, and both have somewhat blunt endings, so no one is likely to complain that Cooper and Podger conclude with a simple reprise of their theme. The six sonatas K10-15, included on the second CD, were composed when Mozart was an eight-year-old wunderkind.

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They have their moments of charm – notably, the minuet en carillon from K14 (very deftly handled here) – but for the most part they’re terribly bland stuff, and they’re not helped by a recorded balance that allows the violin accompaniments to drown out the keyboard tunes. Here, Cooper uses a harpsichord, and the optional cello part is supplied by Alison McGillivray. Two bars have been inadvertently edited out of the first movement of K11, though they are there on the repeat. Misha Donat