Notes and Editorial Reviews
Mozart's 17 Church Sonatas were written between 1772 and 1780. London Baroque play 14 of them omitting the three in C major, K263, 278 and 329, which require brass instruments as well as organ and strings. Ten included here are scored for two violins, cello and figured organ continuo, whilst the remaining four give the organ a more prominent obbligato role. Mozart wrote them for performance between the Epistle and Gospel readings of the Mass, hence the name Epistle Sonatas by which they are sometimes known. The three earliest of them are also the shortest though none played here extends beyond a duration of some five minutes or so. Each is in one movement, an allegro in concise sonata-form.
I found the performances full of
lively charm. Ingrid Seifert, the first violin, is thoroughly at home in this music and gives an assured account of it. Ensemble is nicely balanced and I found the presence of a violone, as well as cello and organ, to be effective. Violin intonation is not absolutely dependable but it never erred sufficiently to spoil my enjoyment. John Toll, who plays a mellow-sounding William Drake chamber organ, gives fluent performances of his obbligato passages whilst remaining the soul of discretion in his continuo role. The recording balance is close but I like this since it gives a faithful picture of the sound of each instrument, the character of cello and violone is particularly well captured. Just occasionally I thought the interpretations a shade too taut, lacking in Austrian warmth and graceful gesture; but this is a small point and one with which others may not agree.
To sum up: a thoroughly enjoyable issue. There will be readers who prefer larger-scale performances than these, but the music does not seem to me to gain anything more from that and I enjoyed this playing particularly for its intimacy and chamber-music character. Mozart evidently had a larger group in mind for the sonatas with brass and timpani but for the remainder of them the present arrangement works uncommonly well.
-- Nicholas Anderson, Gramophone [6/1988, reviewing the original release]
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