MOZART Violin Sonatas
Call me a killjoy, but my pulse rate rarely quickens at the prospect of Mozart’s pre-pubescent music. The three childhood works on these discs – essentially keyboard sonatas with discreet violin support – go through the rococo motions pleasantly enough. But amid the music’s chatter and trickle, only the doleful minore episode in the minuet finale of K30 and the carillon effects in the corresponding movement of K14 (enchantingly realised here) offer anything faintly individual. Still, it would be hard to imagine more persuasive performances than we have here from the ever-rewarding Tiberghien-Ibragimova duo: delicate without feyness, rhythmically buoyant (Tiberghien is careful not to let the ubiquitous Alberti figuration slip into auto-ripple) and never seeking to gild the lily with an alien sophistication.
The players likewise bring the crucial Mozartian gift of simplicity and lightness of touch (Ibragimova’s pure, sweet tone selectively warmed by vibrato) to the mature sonatas that frame each of the two discs. It was Mozart, with his genius for operatic-style dialogues, who first gave violin and keyboard equal billing in his accompanied sonatas; and as in their Beethoven sonata cycle (Wigmore Hall Live), Tiberghien and Ibragimova form a close, creative partnership, abetted by a perfect recorded balance (in most recordings I know the violin tends to dominate). ‘Every phrase tingles,’ I jotted down frivolously as I listened to the opening Allegro of the G major Sonata, K301, truly con spirito, as Mozart asks, and combining a subtle flexibility with an impish glee in the buffo repartee.
Tiberghien and Ibragimova take the opening Allegro of the E minor Sonata, K304, quite broadly, emphasising elegiac resignation over passionate agitation. But their concentrated intensity is compelling both here and in the withdrawn – yet never wilting – minuet. Especially memorable are Ibragimova’s chaste thread of tone in the dreamlike E major Trio, and Tiberghien’s questioning hesitancy when the plaintive Minuet theme returns, an octave lower, after the Trio.
In the G major Sonata, K379, rapidly composed for a Viennese concert mounted by Archbishop Colloredo just before Mozart jumped ship, Tiberghien and Ibragimova are aptly spacious in the rhapsodic introductory Adagio (how eloquently Tiberghien makes the keyboard sing here), and balance grace and fire in the tense G minor Allegro. In the variation finale their basic tempo sounds implausibly jaunty for Mozart’s prescribed Andantino cantabile, though objections fade with Tiberghien’s exquisite voicing of the contrapuntal strands in the first variation. I enjoyed the latest of the sonatas, K481, unreservedly, whether in the players’ exuberant give-and-take in the outer movements or their rapt, innig Adagio, where Ibragimova sustains and shades her dulcet lines like a thoroughbred lyric soprano. Having begun this review in grudging mode, I’ll end in the hope that these delightful, inventive performances presage a complete series of Mozart’s mature violin sonatas, with or without a smattering of childhood works.