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Mozart: Violin Sonatas Nos 18, 20, 22 & 32

Francesca Dego (violin), Francesca Leonardi (piano) (Chandos)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Violin Sonatas Nos 18, 20, 22, & 32
Francesca Dego (violin), Francesca Leonardi (piano)
Chandos CHAN 20232   70:13 mins


It is fascinating to hear just how far performances of Mozart’s violin sonatas have changed on a modern set-up since Itzhak Perlman and Daniel Barenboim recorded their distinguished series for Deutsche Grammophon back in the 1980s. Sparkling, full of bonhomie, full-toned and cantabile focused, their beguilingly affectionate performances fully convey the impression of two old friends enjoying the pleasure of making music together.

Francesca Dego and Francesca Leonardi have also been playing together for many years, and their conveyed delight in each other’s musical company is no less infectiously conveyed. Yet they also reflect the way our perceptions have changed as to how this music should sound over the intervening (nearly) four decades. Dego is more lithe-toned than Perlman in his luxurious prime, uses vibrato more selectively and sparingly, encompasses a wider range of dynamics (especially at the lower end of the spectrum) and shapes Mozart’s phrasing with piquant delicacy and precision. Leonardi proves the ideal partner, deftly articulating with a lighter touch than Barenboim (left-hand especially), and with less reliance on the sustaining pedal as a source of textural colour.

Repeats provide a relished opportunity for decorative fantasy (the DG team keep pretty much to the printed urtext), and in the case of the G major K301’s opening movement, a magical point of piano-trilled repose (second time around) just before the recapitulation gets underway. There is an infectious delight in give-and-take between piano and violin throughout, and in K454 in B flat, which opens the programme, an unmistakable sense of the young Beethoven waiting in the wings. Just a little more ‘air’ around the instruments would have provided the musical icing on an exquisite recital.

Julian Haylock

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