A Magnificent Testimony of Mozart’s Subtleness

Intimate like a rose. © Charles Thibo

Listening to and writing about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music is always a pleasure, a relief from everyday’s hustle and bustle. Here I sit with two hours to kill and I have nothing better to do than to enjoy Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 27 in G, K. 379, performed by Augustin Dumay (violin) and Maria Joao Pires (piano). And once again I struggle to find the right English word to describe the music’s mood. “Innig” in German – intimate, profound, heartfelt; that’s what the dictionary gives me. But it only hints at the depth of emotion stirred up by the first movement.

The adagio part of the first movement is followed by a more lively motive – allegro oblige! The second movement consists of five variations on a simple theme. By passing through the minor mode in four variations, Mozart gave a dramatic or sentimental touch to an otherwise gentle and subdued movement. After the fifth variation, the theme returns in its original form, and a brief coda closes the sonata.

Playing for Archbishop Colloredo

Mozart wrote this piece in 1781, shortly before he moved from Salzburg to Vienna, where he would try to gain a foothold in the music business as a freelance composer and performing artist. On April 8, 1871 he had been summoned by his employer,  Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, the Archbishop of Salzburg, to play at a private concert. Count Colloredo was temporarily staying in Vienna with the Imperial Court.

Mozart performed the sonata together with the violinist Antonio Brunetti, Konzertmeister of the Salzburg court orchestra. In a letter that he wrote to his father late at night after the premiere he explained he had written it the night before within an hour, “but in order to be able to finish it, I only wrote out the accompaniment and retained my own part in my head.”

How to express genius

For a long time I have known, cherished and praised Maria Joao Pires’ performances on the piano. Only about a year ago I came across the violinist Augustin Dumay  when I bought a recording of Grieg’s Sonatas for Violin and Piano, done by Pires and Dumay. I bought their recording of Mozart’s K. 379 soon after and I was impressed. Mozart’s genius is one thing, expressing this genius it is another.

In a recent interview with the German music magazine “Fono Forum”, Dumay said that the performing artist is first of all speaking to the composer, not to the audience. “Being a musician means starting from something material and ending with something immaterial.” According to Dumay the (material) score is important, but it is not carved in granite. The musician has some liberty to deviate and make the piece in this sense his own (immaterial) expression of the (presumed) will of the composer.

What strikes me with their recording of Mozart’s sonata, is the fact that the balance between the violin part and the piano part intended by Mozart is mirrored by the relationship of Dumay and Pires. None of these two old hands needs to shine at the expense of the other, together they express all of Mozart’s subtleness, his vigour, his passion. A magnificient piece, a magnificent recording.

© Charles Thibo

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de Chareli

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