Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sonatas for Violin and Viola: No. 1 in C; No. 2 in E; No. 3 in F; No. 4 in G.
Duos for Violin and Viola: in G,
Werner Hink (vn); Matthias Hink (va)
CAMERATA 20091-2 (2 CDs: 102:12)
In his booklet notes, John Phillips devotes a great deal of space to discussing the possible relationship between Michael Haydn’s four sonatas
and Mozart’s two duos for violin and viola (it’s been suggested—and also discounted—that Mozart wrote his duos to help an ailing Haydn complete a set of six he’d promised to Salzburg’s archbishop). Whatever the truth may be, Werner and Matthias Hink have collected them into a single program, and listeners can take them as they choose—either as a chemically bonded compound or as an oil-and-water mixture.
All the duos fall into three movements, with a moderate to fast first movement leading through a slow middle movement to a quickly paced finale (the theme and variations of Mozart’s Duo K 524, marked
, represents an exception). Haydn’s First Sonata sounds open and straightforward in all three movements, and the Hinks play it with appropriately straightforward energy, but close miking may have overwhelmed some dynamic subtleties. As the notes point out, the violin takes the lead in presenting the thematic material, with the viola often serving in a subsidiary role, in the first movement of the D-Major Sonata, for example, simply accompanying in double-stops. Listeners may hear a rumbling during this movement after a minute (as well as in the second movement); this sounds like extraneous noise, perhaps vehicles outside the Studio Baumgarten in Vienna, where the duo recorded the program. But the violinist and violist themselves hardly play with well-oiled sound, however well attuned they may be each to the other. Their tone quality, both individually and in combination, tends toward a ruddy roughness, which many listeners may find, in combination with the lack of nuance, to be grating, especially as the program wears on; in addition, some of the slow movement’s passagework in the D-Major Sonata reveals occasional instrumental awkwardness (specifically in string crossing) that crops up again in the last movement, in both double-stopped and figural passages. In a brief final cadenza at the end of the F-Major Sonata’s Adagio, a passage from the slow movement of Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto makes an appearance, tying the two composers more tightly together in this performance. The duo gives the final Rondo a lusty reading. The slow movement of the Sonata in E Major, in the duo’s lyrical reading, reveals the composer’s ability to spin out a moving melody as well as a pleasing one, even if he doesn’t sustain the flow throughout the movement’s nearly six-minute duration.
Mozart’s duos, recorded in April 2006 (the Hinks recorded Haydn’s first two sonatas in December 2005 and the second two in March 2005), sound less like super-chunk peanut butter after the Haydn sonatas (and their performances). There’s no extraneous noise in the first movement of the G-Major Duo, which they take at a moderate tempo; the Hinks play the Allegro stylishly and elegantly, enlivening it with crisp articulation. Their tonal beauty and technical fluency in this movement seemed to be missing in their readings of Haydn. Further, their sweetly reflective performance of the slow movement and their buoyant reading of the finale reveal the depth and breadth of their partnership as they share and trade melodic figures. The Duet in B?-Major sounds, if anything, even more genial than the one in G Major in its first movement, the duo’s performance of which displays keen wit both in the timing of slight pauses but in the lightening figuration. The Oistrakhs, David and Igor, took brisk tempos in this duo (although the metronome markings of those readings seem faster than the performances sound). And I remember without particular fondness the somewhat starchy readings by the Fuchses from an earlier era.
The collection will appeal most strongly to those who seek to explore whatever connections exist between the two sets and to those searching for subtly graceful performances of Mozart’s duos. Recommended to both types of collectors, though more general ones may find the less-refined readings of Haydn’s sonatas somewhat less appealing.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title