MOZART; POLUENC Violin Sonatas
Poulenc wasn’t too sure about violin sonatas: ‘The prima donna violin over arpeggiated piano makes me want to vomit’, he remarked. Presumably he’d have had no problem with the Mozart sonatas, K301 and 304, that open this disc by Esther Hoppe and Alasdair Beatson. These are sonatas for piano with violin accompaniment, rather than the other way round, and this pair make that clear from the outset, with Beatson’s bass line striding emphatically forward even as Hoppe plays her winsome opening melody.
That sets the tone for large-scale performances – very definitely public rather than private, with Claves’ spacious studio acoustic allowing plenty of room for big gestures. The architecture of the music comes through strongly, and Leopold Mozart would have approved of Hoppe’s selective use of vibrato. She’s an impulsive player, though, and Beatson sounds at times as if he’s restraining himself. If you prefer more intimacy in this sort of music, you may find both of them a little too eager to switch to full beam.
They sound more at ease in K378 – perhaps a reflection of the greater sophistication of Mozart’s writing, although Hoppe still has a rather aggressive way of landing on cadences. No reservations, however, apply to their account of the Poulenc – tense, dramatic and imaginative, with Beatson piling up huge, gothic crags of tone at the tragic climaxes and Hoppe glinting and whispering in the brooding central elegy for Lorca. Like everything on this enjoyable but idiosyncratic disc, it’s certainly not short of character.