Notes and Editorial Reviews
Recorded at the Palais Daun-Kinsky, Vienna, 17-19 December 2005
Picture Format : NTSC · 16:9 anamorphic (widescreen)
Sound Formats: PCM Stereo · Dolby Digital 5.1 · DTS 5.1
Region Code: 0 (all)
Booklet Notes: English, German, French
Running Time: 99 mins
R E V I E W S
Euroarts’s release of Mozart Violin Sonatas preserves readings by violinist Gil Shaham and his pianist sister Orli in the reverberant setting of the Viennese Palais Daun-Kinsky on December 17–19, 2005. The pairing recalls that of the Menuhins, Yehudi and Hephzibah, and even perhaps that of the young Mozarts themselves. Throughout, Gil, often playing from memory and therefore free of the
encumbrance a music stand represents, has been positioned variously to the left or the right of the piano. Orli may read from music, but hardly seems fastened to it. Gil appears classically poised (though his back has begun to arch a bit); with his feet planted firmly together, he eschews the kind of histrionics that mark (mar?) the performances of so many violinists of his generation. Orli remains almost histrionically watchful at the keyboard. Gil’s sound may be reminiscent of the richness of Grumiaux’s and his style reminiscent of Grumiaux’s elegance, but he presses more ardently, although creating subtle tonal and rhythmic nuances in the Sonata K 301 that might almost suggest the early Beethoven or, as in the Allegro’s hushed, suggestive episode, a world even further in the future. The Shahams play the darker Sonata K 302 with great authority, with Gil producing a thick, viscous Elman-like sound in the Rondeau in keeping with the Sonata’s tonal milieu. Gil reads the Sonata K 303 from a music stand, but it’s far enough away that it never blocks the camera. Yet some problem must have occurred, because the visual and auditory images occasionally seem out of phase. In the second movement, Orli appears for a moment in a reflection from the piano’s lid; otherwise, the photography seems straightforward and natural. Problems with the coordination of the visual and auditory images carry over into the first movement of the Sonata K 304; still, they hardly diminish the enjoyment of the reading, which, strong minded and assured, verges, as does the music itself, on early Romantic sensibility. In the Tempo di menuetto, Gil seems to have formed an especially large-scale conception, to have articulated it with great subtlety. In Grumiaux’s reading, such a sense of scale seems almost irrelevant, so uniformly does he maintain his elegant poise. The brightness of the Sonata K 305 suggests how keenly aware the Shahams have been, and how keenly aware they make the reader, of the emotional significance of the keys Mozart chose for these works; and this tonal sense provides sufficient variety to facilitate listening to the complete set without experiencing the slightest fatigue. The Sonata K 306 introduces a grandeur of scale, with each of its three movements approaching or exceeding seven minutes, that encompasses a wider expressive range than do the other sonatas and allows the Shahams greater leeway. From tantalizing to brilliant, the parts—and the performances themselves—seems almost concerto-like (a point noted as well by the booklet’s annotator, Hans-Ludwig Feldgen), though they may lack the drama of Beethoven’s earliest sonatas.
Those who seek period-performance authenticity may find these readings a bit too far on the Romantic and opulent side. But what could be more authentic than to give keys their proper due, to suggest unmistakably, even to those lacking perfect pitch, the Affekt of the key in which the piece has been created? Through their technical aplomb, their tonal elegance, and their penetration of the music’s core, the Shahams have provided an auditory feast that’s been garnished by the straightforward visual record with which it’s been—if not always seamlessly—paired. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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