MOZART Complete Sonatas for Violin and Piano
The joyful virtuosity and stylish musicianship that Tomas Cotik and Tao Lin brought to their superb cycle of Schubert’s violin-and-piano works for the Centaur label happily permeate their cycle of Mozart’s sonatas. There are so many delightful details to savour that one hardly knows where to begin. The Andante of the A major Sonata, K526, is a good starting point. Lin sets a walking, animated pace that contrasts with the slower, monumental tempo Barenboim and Perlman (DG) favour, allowing Cotik to shape Mozart’s melodic lines in long breaths, adjusting his tone for harmonic and dramatic emphasis.
Whereas Barenboim and Perlman handle the Andantino of the F major, K547, with gentle care, Lin and Cotik are quicker and more exuberant; note their dazzlingly matched embellishments and runs. The Allegro con spirito of the D major, K306, sounds unusually grand and orchestral in concept, which may be due to the resonant, somewhat diffuse engineering. While Lin and Cotik don’t lean into the second subject, the pianist keeps the energy up by way of effectively petulant bass-note accents. Conversely, the Rondo of the C major, K296, takes deft and light-hearted wing, like veteran actors who know just how to throw away a good line.
Apropos of acting, the G major, K301, tellingly exemplifies the pair’s gifts for bypassing their respective instruments in order to create character. Cotik first understates the main theme, then balances the Alberti bass accompaniment in perfect proportion with Lin’s melody and bass line. The duo make slight yet galvanising accelerations once the dotted rhythms kick in, underlining Mozart’s change of mood without labouring the point. The movement’s remainder continues to hold interest through similar inflections and dabs of colour. In this sense, the interpretation differs from Arthur Grumiaux’s fuller-bodied classic recording with Clara Haskil (Decca); here the violinist unabashedly struts his elegance. All told, a most rewarding Mozart cycle, notwithstanding my sonic reservations.
Clearer, more detailed engineering graces the second instalment of a Mozart cycle from Jacques Israelievitch and Christina Petrowska Quilico. In July 2015 the duo presented a marathon concert at the Chautauqua Festival in Virginia devoted to the complete Mozart sonatas. A few months earlier the violinist had been diagnosed with lung cancer, to which he succumbed on September 5. Despite his struggle, the duo managed to complete their cycle. With that in mind, there’s nothing remotely tentative about Israelievitch’s focused tone, cultivated phrasing and flexible ensemble interaction. Although the piano is the dominant instrument throughout most of these sonatas, Israelievitch often appears to assume the lead. Take the Menuetto of the F major Sonata, K377, where Quilico plays the theme simply and plainly. Yet Israelievitch enters and the theme gains considerable profile and shape.
The same thing happens in the Andante of the F major, K376, where Israelievitch’s offhand legato and minute portamentos add expressive dimension. This is not to slight Quilico’s accomplishments at all; for instance, her strong, dynamically contrasted pianism in the Adagio of the E flat Sonata, K481, underlines the music’s operatic nature. Indeed, I look forward to this series’ remaining volumes.