These three sonatas and the K403 fragment are known as the “Auernhammer” sonatas, and show Mozart cut loose from his terrible employment as a sort of musical serf for Salzburg’s Archbishop, and feeling his freedom in the much more exciting environment of Vienna. He was living with the Weber family and enamored of their eldest daughter. He had three ladies as pupils and dedicated six violin/piano sonatas to one of them: Josepha Auernhammer. The works performed here were among them.
Manze is a special breed of musician. In addition to solo performance he is also in demand as conductor of both period and modern orchestras, and is current director of the English Concert. Definitely not a purist, he strongly opposes the strict and sniffy faction of the early music movement, and feels that H.I.P. (Historically-Informed Practice) has taken away major portions of the repertory from some of today’s finest players. “Baroque music on modern instruments is very exciting,” says Manze, who also feels “No one person has a monopoly on how to do it.” Although in these sonatas he plays a Baroque violin with gut strings accompanied by a fortepiano, he improvises cadenzas and ornamentation for them. His cadenzas for Mozart’s violin concertos were recently published. Manze observes that players in Mozart’s time improvised a lot.
The sonatas are played with a dynamic interplay of the two instruments which combines with Mozart’s imaginative and often unexpected writing to create an almost concerto-like feeling to the music – aided beautifully by the very natural surround ambiance of the hi-res multichannel recording. I was reminded of their previous award-winning disc of Corelli Sonatas which achieved a feeling similar to that composer’s concertos. The impressive opening of the E Flat major sonata or the entire first movement of the F major can be heard as Mozart expressing a revolutionary spirit that had been squashed during his tenure in Salzburg. Also, the two instruments have equal roles here, rather than the violin merely accompanying the keyboard as was the case with most early violin-piano sonatas.
Being partial to the harpsichord – and Mozart’s title for the Six Sonatas lists playability on that instrument ahead of the fortepiano – I usually find the fortepiano a somewhat annoying sound. But whether it is the music, the very transparent recording quality, or the timbre of Egarr’s instrument (an original from c.1800), I find the fortepiano here a perfect match for Manze’s 1782 violin. This is an absolutely delightful chamber music program to help launch this Mozart Year, and is most highly recommended!
– John Sunier