Julian Perkins & Emma Abbate
K358, 381, 521 + J. C. Bach: Sonata in A
There is a measure of poignancy attached to this issue since it is the last recording to have been made at Finchcocks before the retirement of Katrina and Richard Burnett and the dispersal of the marvellous keyboard collection built up there. On a personal note, I can recall with the greatest pleasure many visits to Finchcocks over the years, particular during the annual early autumn festival. Both pianos employed here, a Viennese grand by J. P. Fritz of c.1815 (used for the Mozart) and a square piano by Anton Walter and son of c.1805 (J. C. Bach), were part of the collection.
Mozart’s piano duets fall into two groups, the first works for two players at one keyboard, the second pieces for two keyboards. All the works on the present CD fall into the former category, from which K19d and K497 will presumably appear on a second disc along with the two-piano Fugue in C minor and D-major Sonata, K448, probably the finest of the duets.
I have listed the Mozart sonatas in the order in which they are given on both the cover and in the booklet, but listeners who are familiar with the music will be surprised to hear at the outset not K521, but the opening bars of K381. It would seem that the information for these sonatas was inadvertently transposed; I understand that the error has already been corrected on-line and the documentation of the CD will be amended at the first opportunity.
Such matters of course have no bearing on the performances, which are excellent in all respects. The Fritz piano has full and gracious tonal qualities generously exploited by Julian Perkins (who plays primo throughout) and Emma Abbate, who especially relish exploiting the colours produced by the many imitative exchanges Mozart gives the players. Cantabile Mozartian lines are also beautifully drawn; listen for example to Perkins’ playing of the principal theme of the exquisitely lovely Adagio of K358, the kind of writing that would soon be finding its way into the central movements of the piano concertos. Both players are also untroubled by greater technical demands of K521, the big episode of the central Andante opening out to glorious blossom under the hands of Perkins and Abbate. The square piano on which the little J. C. Bach sonata is played is obviously a more modest instrument, but it has an attractively wheezy bass and the two-movement sonata, consisting of an Allegretto in the fashionable sentimental style and a breezy minuet, is ideal for this repertoire.
It is worth adding that all repeats are taken, allowing the performers ample opportunity to add ornamentation, which is always tastefully and not infrequently wittily added. The sound is a little close, but very much in line with what I remember as ‘the Finchcocks sound’. I await volume 2 with considerable anticipation.