Mozart: Sonatas for piano & violin KV 304, 305, 380 & 454

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart Sonatas
WORKS: Sonatas for piano & violin KV 304, 305, 380 & 454
PERFORMER: Dmitry Sitkovetsky (violin), Antonio Pappano (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.251

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As a pianist Mozart was famous throughout Europe, but he was also a very accomplished, if somewhat reluctant, violinist, and it’s hard to think of another composer before Georges Enescu who composed sonatas for the two instruments with so complete a practical knowledge of both. The constant interplay between violin and piano is one of the glories of Mozart’s sonatas, with the players also exchanging roles between one stage of the movement and the next. This first volume in a new cycle from Dmitry Sitkovetsky and Antonio Pappano contains a pair of two-movement works from Mozart’s first mature set, issued in Paris towards the end of 1778, plus the glittering Sonata K380, and the grand B flat K454 composed for the visiting Mantuan virtuoso Regina Strinasacchi. One thing Sitkovetsky and Pappano can’t be accused of is a lack of liveliness – indeed, with the exception of the melancholy E minor Sonata K304, their opening movements are hair-raisingly fast. In the case of K454, the Allegro teeters on the edge of sounding garbled, and for all the brilliance of the playing the music can’t really be shaped with adequate poise and elegance at this speed. All the same, these are unfailingly musical performances, and if Pappano’s interpretation seems a little less detailed and pointed than Sitkovetsky’s it may be because of the rather recessed piano sound. For performances of greater breadth and warmth, Itzhak Perlman and Daniel Barenboim remai firm favourites, but if Hänssler can improve on the balance between piano and violin in future instalments, this series will be a worthy contender. Misha Donat

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Reviewed February 2007