Mozart: Sonatas for Violin & Piano, K. 301, K. 306, K. 376, and K. 526 Volume 2. Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Violin, and Konstantin Lifschitz, piano. Recorded in Tonstudio van Geest, Heidelberg/ Sandhausen Clara-Wieck Auditorium, Sandhausen. Hänssler 98 . 252 (76:42; DDD; $19.98). Available directly from Hännsler Classic at http://www.haenssler-classic.de or such online dealers as http://archivmusic.com .
The second installment of Dmitry Sitkovetsky's recording of the mature violin sonatas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) presents a winning and wide-ranging recital of the composer's work. Instead of his able accompanist of Volume 1, fellow-conductor Antonio Pappano, Sitkovetsky is joined by Ukrainian-born pianist Konstantin Lifschitz. Lifschitz has been a most welcome soloist with Sitkovetsky's Greensboro Symphony Orchestra and a superb collaborative artist on the Sitkovetsky and Friends Chamber Music Series in Greensboro, NC.
Eckardt van den Hoggen's Program Notes for Volume 2 give a very good biographical account of Mozart's life at the time these four sonatas were composed, ranging from Mannheim and Paris in c. 1778 to Vienna in 1787, but give the sonatas themselves short shrift. Casual music lovers ought to have Melvin Berger's Guide to Sonatas close at hand. Those needing more detailed information should acquire Abram Loft's Violin and Keyboard: The Duo Repertoire. Both are invaluable sources I mine for important background information for reviews.
Sitkovetsky's recital samples one each of Mozart's seven first mature sonatas which were composed in Mannheim and Paris in 1778. One from his "middle period" sonatas (K. 376) from 1781 follows along with one of the greatest of his last sonatas from 1787. Mozart's first mature sonatas are significant above all else for having given a substantive and important role for the violin. Traditional sonatas had been dominated by the keyboard.
The violin leads off alone with the melody immediately in Sonata in G Major, K. 301, and dramatic contrast is built into the opening statement. The last of the seven works in this early series, the two-movement Sonata in D, K. 306, features harmonic ambiguity, an aspect Mozart would exploit even further in later compositions, and extensive, gorgeous violin trills. Sonata in F, K. 376 dates from the period of Mozart's stunning break with the archbishops' service in Mannheim and his beginning to free-lance in Vienna. The first movement shows the composer's subtle metamorphosing of one idea into three "new" tunes. Highlights are the smooth transitions as violin and piano take up an idea in turn. The Köchel-Einstein catalog describes Sonata in A, K. 526 as "this most significant of the keyboard-violin sonatas of Mozart." Every movement is dominated by constant movement and the integration of both instruments is complete throughout the piece. The infectious and jazzy "Presto" finale is popular with players and audiences alike.
There is a good sense of acoustical space in the well-balanced recordings. It was not immediately clear which works were recorded in which venue. There is no hint of ascetic, thin "historically informed practice" or early music sound in Sitkovetsky's full and robust violin tone. Mozart provides no cover for mortal players but Sitkovesky's intonation is always exact and his articulation in the fastest passages is clear and precise. His phrasing is a model of Classical style. Modern concert pitch is used and both players make full but tasteful use of the full range of their instruments. All these sterling qualities are perfectly matched by Lifschitz's consummate accompaniment.