Mozart: Violin Sonatas K303, 304, 377 & 526

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Philips
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart Violin Sonatas
WORKS: Violin Sonatas K303, 304, 377 & 526
PERFORMER: Mark SteinbergMitsuko Uchida
CATALOGUE NO: 475 6200
Mozart conceived these as ‘keyboard sonatas with violin accompaniment’. However the violinist tends to get star billing today; even in the admired recordings from Arthur Grumiaux and Walter Klien (Philips) the violin dominates. Not here, though. Abetted by an ideal recorded balance, Mitsuko Uchida and Mark Steinberg form a true, creative partnership. In the first movement of K377 their airborne grace and delighted, quicksilver repartee make most other performances (Grumiaux and Klien included) sound over-emphatic. The D minor variations have a haunted intensity, briefly eased by the fragile tenderness of the major-keyed variation (the players are always sensitive to harmonic colour), and culminating in the final, siciliano variation, which here deepens the mood of elegiac fatalism. Relief comes with the minuet finale, taken gently and reflectively, with miracles of soft colouring from both players.

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The other sonatas are equally compelling. In the finale of K303, Uchida and Steinberg play up the contrast between the piano’s demure opening and the violin’s gruff syncopated answer, and later delightfully bring out the polonaise swing. They relish K526’s sinewy contrapuntal energy and its leaping, flickering exchanges. And in their hands the E minor seems even more than usual like a lament for Mozart’s mother. In the first movement they stress the music’s resignation and regret rather than its passion and anger, while the minuet has an uncommon delicacy and inwardness, until the coda brings a stab of defiance. Some may find Uchida and Steinberg a touch too rarefied, especially in K304. But for me their searching, richly characterised performances make them a new benchmark. Richard Wigmore