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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Sonatas for Fortepiano & Violin Vol. 1 (Isabelle Faust; Alexander Melnikov)


Information

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • (01) Sonata in D major, K. 306
  • (04) Sonata in E minor, K. 304
  • (06) Sonata in A major, K. 526

Isabelle Faust, violin
Alexander Melnikov, fortepiano

Date: 2018
Label: harmonia mundi
http://www.harmoniamundi.com/#!/albums/2466

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Review

The past couple of years have seen the appearance of Alina Ibragimova’s cycle of all Mozart’s music for violin and keyboard, with the pianist Cédric Tiberghien (Hyperion). Their five two-disc sets were praised almost universally and would seem set fair to become a modern benchmark for this music. Now comes Isabelle Faust with the first volume of ‘Sonatas for Fortepiano and Violin’. Whether that ultimately implies an exhaustive conspectus, like Ibragimova’s, or just the later works, omitting the juvenilia, remains to be seen.

Faust and Ibragimova are similar musicians in many ways, equally adept on modern and period instruments and with an exploratory approach to everything they play. Ibragimova’s Mozart was on modern instruments; Faust, on the other hand, plays her 1704 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Stradivari, while Alexander Melnikov’s fortepiano is a copy of a 1795 Anton Walter. The difference in sound is apparent from the very first note of the D major Sonata, K306: a simple tune in thirds in the piano right hand over an Alberti-style left hand with the violin doubling, an octave higher, the implied bass line. The separation between instruments – the violin accompanying the keyboard here – is clearly demarcated between Ibragimova and Tiberghien, while the greater similarity of tone between Faust’s sparkling violin and Melnikov’s glittering fortepiano (within an airier acoustic) results in a sound more akin to the jingling of small bells. It’s delicious.

This is domestic music, and the instruments of the day were scaled to such private performances. Modern instruments are designed to project, and Ibragimova and Tiberghien’s readings were conceived to do just that: first in the Wigmore Hall, where they performed this cycle, then at the concert hall of the Wyastone Estate in Monmouth, their recording venue. Two contrasting conceptions of the same music.

Ibragimova’s evenness and fullness of tone contrasts with Faust’s range of dynamics, especially at low levels – there are some breathtaking pianissimos that whisper so confidingly that the voice almost cracks. And repeated-note figures, in the finale of K306, say, draw a huge tonal variety from Faust’s Strad. Melnikov’s piano, too, can ring, roar or gently croon, making some beguiling sounds in the Schubertian hymn of K304’s second movement.

Comparing the same sonatas in the two recordings has been instructive but has not made it any easier to decide whether either is more valid, whether one is preferable to the other. Each has satisfied in its own ways, making a simple choice between one or the other invidious. Nevertheless, for those attuned to the less refined sound of period instruments, Faust and Melnikov demand to be heard.

-- David Threasher, Gramophone

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 in Salzburg – 5 December 1791 in Vienna) was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. Till his death in Vienna, he composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. Mozart is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence is profound on subsequent Western art music.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Amadeus_Mozart

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Isabelle Faust (born 1972 in Esslingen) is a German violinist. She trained with Christoph Poppen and Dénes Zsigmondy. Faust won First Prize in the 1993 Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy. Since 1996, she has performed on the "Sleeping Beauty" Stradivarius violin of 1704, on loan from Landesbank Baden-Württemberg. Faust has performed as guest soloist with most of the world's major orchestras and won multiple awards for her recordings, mostly on Harmonia Mundi. She is a proponent of new music and has given world premieres of works by, among others, Olivier Messiaen, Werner Egk, and Jörg Widmann.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabelle_Faust

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Alexander Melnikov (born 1973) is a Russian pianist. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory under Lev Naumov. Melnikov developed an interest in historically-informed performance practice at an early age, and performs regularly with period ensembles. As a soloist, Melnikov has performed with orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Melnikov's discography on Harmonia Mundi features works by Weber, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorak, Rachmaninov, Hindemith, Scriabin, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

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