Media Review

Mozart: Sonatas for Piano & Violin, K.304, K.305, K.380, and K.454

August 14, 2009 - Greensboro, NC:

Mozart: Sonatas for Piano & Violin, K.304, K. 305, K.380, and K.454. Dmitry Sitkovetsky, violin, and Antonio Pappano, piano. Recorded in Pottonhall, Surfolk, UK on February 5-6, 2006. Hänssler 98.251 (69:36; DDD; $19.98). Available directly from Hänssler Classic (at or such online dealers as ).

This fine recording is the first of a series covering all the mature violin sonatas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91). One of the delights of the cultural life of the Triad region of North Carolina has been the broad musical stewardship of Dmitry Sitkovetsky as music director of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. Lucky music lovers get to hear him wearing multiple hats as conductor, as a world-class solo virtuoso, and most of all, as a consummate and inspiring chamber musician in his Sitkovetsky and Friends series. This is a welcome addition to Sitkovetsky's extensive discography. He is partnered on piano by Antonio Pappano, a name familiar from some superb orchestral and opera recordings. He is Music Director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London and of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Mozart's sixteen short Sonates pour le Clavecin avec l'accomoagnement de Violon (1763-66) heavily fit his father Leopold's model for monetary success. Wolfgang's mature sonatas date from his long journey to Paris that began September 23, 1777. Leopold was stuck at home in Salzburg while Mozart, for better or worse, was free to "'cut loose." The key features of these works are the unprecedented equal demands placed upon both instruments. The violin no longer merely accompanies the keyboard but has its own independent virtuosic technical demands.

Sitkovetsky's program samples some of the best works from three sets of publications. Two sonatas, K. 304 and K. 305, come from Mozart's first set of six mature sonatas composed in Mannheim and Paris while on tour in 1778. The CD begins with Sonata in A, K. 305. Its opening movement is what Abram Loft, in Violin and Keyboard: The Duo Repertoire, calls "all exuberance, scintillation, and vitality" while the second movement is a set of theme and variations abounding with inventive badinage between the two players. Many commentators attribute the profound emotional depths of Sonata in E minor, K. 304 to Mozart's having attended alone his mother's long death agonies in Paris. The opening movement seems to have smoldering passion barely contained by the period's classical strictures. The second movement is a serene, unworldly minuet. Sonata in E-flat, K. 380 is part of the next set of six sonatas composed in Vienna in 1781. Two fast movements bristling with bravura displays and dramatic intensity sandwich a lyric, spacious slow movement. Sonata in B-flat, K. 454, one of the five independently composed late works, fully displays the complete equality and interdependence of the two instruments. A slow largo leads into the opening allegro followed by a seraphic andante and ending with fireworks of the concluding allegretto.

The balance between Sitkovetsky's violin and Pappano's piano is superb with each player exhibiting subtly gauged dynamics. Sitkovetsky's intonation is centered precisely no matter how fast the tempo and his warm tone and clear articulation are welcome in every bar. Pappano's operatic experience repays in spades as he seemingly shifts instantly without effort between his role as accompanist and soloist. Their imaginative and stylish interpretations abound with plenty of temperament. The recorded sound is excellent.