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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1758-1791)
Sonata in G major, K.301 (1778) [16:17]
Sonata in E flat major, K.302 (1778) [13:52]
Sonata in C major, K.303 (1778) [11:44]
Sonata in E minor, K304 (1778) [15:39]
Sonata in A major, K305 (1778) [16:14]
Sonata in D major, K306 (1778) [22:20]
Gil Shaham (violin); Orli Shaham (piano)
rec. Palais Daun-Kinsky, Vienna, 17-19 December 2005
NTSC 16:9 Region Code 0 PCM Stereo DD 5.1-DTS 5.1
EUROARTS 2055188 [99:00]

The Palais Daun-Kinsky is one of the finest of the grand Viennese city houses. It was built between 1713 and 1716; the structure was the work of the architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrant and it was elaborately decorated by artists such as Alberto Camesina, Carlo Innocenzo Carlone and Marcantonio Chiarini. It is one of the great Viennese baroque mansions - it now hosts a restaurant beyond most pockets - and one of its ornately decorated rooms provides a beautiful backdrop to these performances of the six violin sonatas published in Paris as Six Sonates Pour Clavecin Ou Forté Piano Avec Accompagnement d’un Violon. The result is very handsome, both visually and musically – though one might feel that the setting is a bit too grand for such thoroughly intimate music, as in the hushed playing in the andante grazioso of K.305, for example.
The brother and sister partnership of Gil and Orli Shaham, playing on modern instruments, work together very convincingly, the instrumental balance and interplay thoroughly assured and unforced. This is particularly evident in passages such as the variations in the andante grazioso of K.305 and in the finale of K.302.
In Mozart’s earlier violin sonatas the violin was often allowed to do little more than accompany the piano; in these sonatas the two instruments have become equal partners. There is some wonderful music in these sonatas - in the violin’s statement of the lyrical first melody in the allegro con spirito of K 301, for example or the siciliana in the second movement of that sonata; the powerful opening of K.302 and the expressive writing in the second movement of the same sonata. K.304, written less than a month after the death of Mozart’s mother, is a masterpiece of ‘impersonal’ grief. Throughout, the Shahams play with certainty of purpose and flexibility.
Now and then the camerawork is a little distracting, the cuts and changes of angle seeming to random rather than responding to anything in the structure of the music, but for the most part it is relatively straightforward. Though it is pleasant to see the body language of violinist and pianist, to observe the moments of eye-contact, the occasional smile of pleasure and so on, it cannot really be said that the visual dimension of this recording adds very much to the impact the performances would make if they had been issued simply as a straightforward audio CD.
Gil Shaham has attracted most attention as a soloist in some of the great violin concertos, but he here shows himself an accomplished chamber musician, and his sister plays with great clarity and sympathy. Together they produce thoroughly enjoyable performances of some marvellous music.

Glyn Pursglove


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