Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonatas: in E?
Catherine Mackintosh (vn); Geoffrey Govier (fp) (period instruments)
CHANDOS 0785 (58:25)
With its fifth volume, Chandos’s series of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s duo sonatas performed by the Amadè Duo
(violinist Catherine Mackintosh and fortepianist Geoffrey Govier) draws to an end. As before, Mackintosh plays a 1703 Giovanni Grancino violin with a late 18th-century bow, and Govier, a fortepiano made in 1986 by Christopher Clarke, based on a Viennese instrument by Anton Walter from about 1795, tuned to unequal temperament, with A = 430. And as before, Neal Zaslav has provided exceptionally clear and insightful notes.
In the program’s first sonata (K 380), the instrumentalists trade prominence. Mackintosh hardly sounds so elegant as Arthur Grumiaux in Mozart sonatas, but the liveliness of the interaction between the partners, their subtle yet wide-ranging dynamic (and emotional) contrasts, and their crisp instrumental timbres compensate in large measure for any lack of smooth eloquence, as in the sonata’s Andante con moto. They demonstrate that they’re capable of achieving very different results—less probing overall (though hardly in the Rondo’s stormy passages) but correspondingly more gracious, with a similar timbral, technical, and expressive arsenal.
Lasting almost 22 minutes, the program’s second sonata (K 454) represents perhaps an even more equal partnership, with the violin and piano trading short snatches of melody in a game of musical badminton. Mackintosh and Govier have obviously developed the kind of intimate partnership that allows this kind of interaction to blossom, but they play with seamless unanimity in homophonic passages for a time before returning to their game of shuttlecock and battledore. In the slow movement, they alternate piquancy and poignancy, and they reach deep into the movement’s expressive lode near the end, at the same time as the timbres of Mackintosh’s violin seem to grow tubbier and less ingratiating. The finale, which, the story goes, Mozart improvised before Emperor Joseph (in an appearance with violinist Regina Strinasacchi) provides the duo with an opportunity for an expressive
tour de force.
The duo revels in the simpler
joie de vivre
of the third sonata (K 547) in its opening Andantino cantabile and especially in its ensuing Allegro, in which chattering figuration accompanies the melodic parts; they find wit even in its sudden turn to minor. They’re arch in the theme that provides the basis for the finale’s six variations, and while Govier organizes the first variation’s 16th notes into comprehensible patterns, they strut confidently together in the second and third before relaxing into the more smoothly flowing fourth (at least in the violin part). Govier carries the argument of the darker fifth alone and admits the violin as an accompanist to his running figuration in the sixth and final variation.
Those who have followed the duo through the first four volumes will be disappointed to find that the series has come to an end, but this valedictory effort, though a mournful event, deserves as enthusiastic a recommendation (I called it “urgent” at the series’ opening, and still would) as did the ones that preceded it.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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