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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Andante and variations in G minor, KV 501 [7:31]
Sonata in C major, KV 521 [23:41]
Sonata in F major, KV 497 [27:44]
Guillaume Bellom and Ismaël Margain (piano)
rec. 6-9 July 2013, Théâtre Saint-Bonnet, Bourges, France
APARTÉ AP078 [58:56]

This recording was one of Albert Lam’s ‘picks of the week’ as a download (see review), and I can agree with all of his positive comments. I certainly enjoy the light touch in these performances more than the grander approach of Misha and Cipa Dichter on the Nimbus label (see review). While we’re picking up on comparisons, the playing of Jenö Jándo and Zsuzsa Kollár in their recordings for Naxos (see review of Vol. 1) can be rewarding at times, at other times frustratingly heavy, though timings in KV 521 are very similar to those from Bellom and Margain. Güher and Süher Pekinel on Warner were always a safe choice, but I find the ‘joy and vitality’ expressed by Bellom and Margain winning in these pieces, and we can but hope they decide to bring together a more complete collection of Mozart in further releases.
The three works presented here belong to 1786-87 when Mozart was in Vienna, not long before he embarked on the creation of his greatest operas working with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. The scale and ambition of the two sonatas certainly goes far beyond the merely recreational, and with plenty of stunning harmonic explorations and progressions relished by the players there is much excellent music to get your teeth into here. What makes Guillaume Bellom and Ismaël Margain stand out as a duet is not only their perfectly synchronized technical prowess, but in their combination of remarkably detailed attention to phrasing and dynamics while maintaining a sense of openness and natural breathing within every aspect of the music. Achieving satisfying perfection while delivering drama and a sense of lively narrative in each movement is hard enough to do, and with Mozart there is absolutely nowhere to hide.
The power and wit in the first movement of KV 497 for instance, carries us effortlessly from the sustained expressiveness of the Adagio opening to the sublime drama of the main Allegro di molto. This second-longest movement of the collection is followed immediately by the longest, an Andante which clocks in at 10:25, maintaining lyricism and an involving sense of development while undercutting Güher and Süher Pekinel by about a minute and a half. There are no pretensions to non-period profundity here, and one can’t imagine audiences of Mozart’s time becoming restless. Everything is filled with entertainment and a sense of fun to go along with the virtuosity and polished musicality on show.
Other than wanting more, there are no complaints about any aspect of this release. There is a little heavy breathing and some felt-on-string swishes here and there in the slow movements, but barely anything to detract from some magical Mozart. Respectable booklet notes in French and English add to an excellent recording and performances from a pair of young musicians who have one set of pedals and the world at their feet.
Dominy Clements