Julian Perkins & Emma Abbate
+ Clementi: Sonata in E flat, op 14/3
A review of the first volume of Julian Perkins and Emma Abbate’s survey of Mozart piano duets appeared in February 2017. This second volume completes the survey and – as with vol. 1 – throws in an extra work by a contemporary. Also like its predecessor the instruments used come from the collection built up by Richard Burnett at Finchcocks, where the earlier issue was recorded. This time the Mozart sonatas are played on a grand fortepiano built by Michael Rosenberger in Vienna around 1800, the Clementi on an undated instrument built by the Clementi company in London in the 1820s. The Rosenberger is an instrument of rich tonal quality that suits the scale of the great F-major Sonata rather better than the early K19d, for which I found it rather too beefy. The sound, too, is a little more resonant than that on the earlier issue.
Much the most important work here is K497, which dates from 1786, a year of exceptionally rich achievement for Mozart, including of course Le nozze di Figaro. From the outset of the beautifully poised Adagio that prefaces the opening Allegro, the work displays total mastery of intricate dialogue between the players, a real sense of contrasted textures between solo and concertante writing and, as one might expect at this period, considerable contrapuntal complexity. There is, too, as one might equally expect of a work dating from the year of Figaro, a strong dramatic element, tense in the development of the opening movement, of a more playful buffo nature in the finale.
Mozart was already displaying an inherent sense of drama in K19d, composed just over 20 years earlier, almost certainly for him and his sister Nannerl to play, as the famous family portrait of 1780-81 probably illustrates. It is a work of considerable charm and fun that calls for much fleet finger-work of the kind impressively supplied by Perkins (who I throughout mention first not from any lapse of manners but because he plays primo) and Abbate, who as on the earlier CD add often witty ornamentation in repeats. Curiously, they here repeat the second half of the opening Allegro where Mozart did not ask for it, but fail to do so in the outer movements of K497, where he did.
The final Mozart work is an oddity, a hybrid work consisting of two incomplete movements originally published by Andre in 1853 and included in Mozart Neue Ausgabe in this form. Later paper dating by Alan Tyson established that the opening Allegro had no connection with the following Andante, which is not only cast in a much simpler style but dates from three years later (1791). Nonetheless this has not prevented Robert Levin from undertaking a completion, which to my ears forms an uncomfortable juxtaposition between the inventive complexity of the opening movement and the Andante.
The Clementi sonata sits uneasily here, particularly since it follows K497 in the running order. It is indeed rather devoid of significant substance, being full of showy passagework that demands considerable dexterity from the performers but not a lot of concentration from the listener. Doubtless it might make a better effect in other company.
As already suggested, the stylish, fluent performances maintain the high level attained in the first disc. I did wonder if more might have been made of Mozart’s dynamic contrasts in K497’s opening Adagio, but that’s a minor point in the context of such thoroughly rewarding and sympathetic playing.
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