Mozart: Piano Duets: Vol 2

Mozart: Piano Duets: Vol 2
Emma Abbate & Julian Perkins
Resonus RES10210. 70’43

Mozart: Sonatas in F major K497 and C major K19d
Mozart, completed Levin: ‘Sonata’ in G major K357
Clementi: Sonata in E-flat

I reviewed Volume 1 of this two-disc series here. That review gives the background to Mozart’s piano duets and the Richard Burnett Heritage Collection of early keyboard instruments. For this recording, Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins choose two different fortepianos from the collection, a Viennese grand piano by Michael Rosenberger c1800 and a 1820s square piano by London’s Clementi & Co. The recital opens with the most substantial and important work, the Sonata in F, K497, running the risk of overpowering the other pieces. Unfortunately, for some reason, the programme notes do not follow the recorded order of the pieces. 

Clementi’s Sonata in E-flat major was published for the author in March 1786 as the last of Three Duets for Two Performers on One Piano Forte. Clementi revised it in 1815, making “considerable improvements”, but it is the original version that is performed here. Five years before the publication of the duets, Clementi had met Mozart for the first and only time when Emperor Joseph II set up a meeting, without either of their realising that he intended it as a duel between them. He declared the result a ‘draw’. Clementi was very complimentary about Mozart’s playing, but Mozart rather churlishly wrote to his father than Clementi was “an excellent cembalo player, but that is all . . . he has not a farthing’s worth of taste or feeling; he is a mere mechanicus”. On the evidence of this attractive duet, Mozart’s rebuke seems rather unkind.

The curious Sonata in C major, K19d, is generally accepted as not being by Mozart at all, and is now listed as a work of “spurious or doubtful authenticity”. But it is just possible that it is the duet that the eight-year-old Mozart and his sister Nannerl played in London in 1765. A detailed description of the background to the piece is given in the CD booklet, which can be found here. It is an attractive piece, with a delightful twist in the third movement.

Robert D. Levin’s completion of the Allegro and Andante (Sonata) in G major K357 receives its first known recording. Expanding the fragmentary movements into a more appropriate two-movement Sonata, Leven creates a sensible structural form, unlike the earlier 1851 André ‘completion’ when he first published the two movements. Whether they were ever considered to be part of a single composition is still open to argument. It seems unlikely, not least because they seem to have been composed some years apart. The Allegro – Andante format might seem odd for a Sonata, but the substantial Ronda format of the second movement

Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins play with an excellent sense of consort, making it difficult to believe that there are two people playing. Mozart’s relatively sparing texture helps with this, as does the sound of the chosen instruments, the much smaller sound of the Clementi piece suiting its more intimate mood well. I did wonder why the names of the two pianists were given in the order they have been on the CD. There is no seniority of performers in these works, so it seems odd not to put the names in alphabetical order, nevermind the possibly outdated convention of listing female names first. To redress the balance, I have reversed the order of the names in this review.

As I wrote in my review of the first volume of this series, these recordings are a reminder of the work of Richard and Katrina Burnett over a 45-year period in creating there important musical instrument collection, formally at Finchcocks.

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