MOZART Violin Sonatas Vol 3
If you are going to play Mozart’s fragile childhood sonatas ‘for keyboard with violin accompaniment’ on modern instruments – always a risky proposition – this is the way to do it. Avoiding the twin traps of over-inflation and simpering coyness, the symbiotic partnership of Tiberghien and Ibragimova respect the music’s innocence while relishing every tiny opportunity for mischief and humour. If the ear is naturally drawn to Tiberghien’s limpid, subtly coloured pianism in these keyboard-dominated works, Ibragimova ensures that her discreet contributions always tell, not least in the scampering opening Allegro of K31, where the keyboard is egged on by little whoops of delight from the violin.
When Mozart embarked on his first mature duo sonatas in Mannheim in 1778, he was surely intent on surpassing a recent set of sonatas by Joseph Schuster that he had pronounced ‘Not bad’ – something of an accolade from Mozart. While Schuster’s violin parts were adventurous for the time, Mozart goes a stage further and makes the two instruments virtual equals. Both the sonatas of 1778 included here, K296 and K306, are Mozart at his most coltishly exuberant, and get performances to match. Tiberghien, with his crystalline sonorities and pinpoint clarity of articulation, and Ibragimova gleefully savour their jousting dialogues and rapid role-reversals in the fast movements. The opening Allegros of both sonatas combine the requisite swagger (on one level, this is high-class show-off music) with a roguish twinkle, while the singing eloquence of the Andantes (where Ibragimova uses vibrato sparingly and expressively) underlines the essential vocal nature of Mozart’s inspiration.
With the B flat Sonata, K454, of 1784, written for the Mantuan virtuoso Regina Strinasacchi, the violin’s emancipation is complete, in music that often sounds
like a finely wrought double concerto without orchestra. Again, the players compel the ear with their rhythmic vitality (the outer movements kept supple and airborne), their quick-witted banter and their care for detail. Ever alive to Mozart’s strands of counterpoint, they also notice how much of the coursing first movement is marked piano. In the rapt Andante, the duo’s fine-drawn cantabile lines are matched by their acute sensitivity to harmonic flux, above all in the way they ‘feel’ the speculative remote modulations in the central development. The players also find more variety in the little ‘sonata for beginners’, K547, than you might deduce from the printed page, without ever compromising the music’s faux naïf grace.
Looking for problems, I’d point only to their reluctance, in each of the sonatas, to add even modest ornamentation, or improvise ‘lead-ins’ at fermatas. This cavil apart, Tiberghien and Ibragimova come close to my ideal Mozartian duo, in performances that further whet the appetite for the rest of the series.