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Leopold MOZART (1719 - 1787): "Solosonaten und Trios" (Solo Sonatas and Trios)

Christine Schornsheim, fortepianoab; Rüdiger Lotter, violinb; Sebastian Hess, cellob

rec: Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2011, Augsburg, Zeughaus (Musiksaal)a; March 6 - 7, 2012, Munich-Sendling, Himmelfahrtskircheb
Oehms - OC 860 (2 CDs) (© 2012) (1.20'45")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list
Scores Sonatas for keyboard

Sonata in C (LMV XIII,3)a; Sonata in F (LMV XIII,1)a; Sonata in B flat (LMV XIII,2)a; Trio in C (LMV XI,2)b; Trio in F (LMV XI,1)b; Trio in A (LMV XI,3)b

The reputation of Leopold Mozart is rather ambiguous. Nobody denies his decisive influence on the musical development of his son Wolfgang Amadeus. However, he has also been accused of exploiting his son's talent, being autocratic and manipulative, and jealous of Wolfgang's success as a composer. As so often it is not easy to create a historically accurate picture of the man's character, but it seems that the negative assessments are at least highly exaggerated. The suggestion that he was a narrow-minded conservative are most definitely wrong as he had a lively interest in the newest developments in natural science and literature. Leopold also wrote one of the most important treatises of the 18th century, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, which appeared in 1756, was then revised several times, and found many reprintings, both in German and in various translations. It gives much insight into the performance practice of the time.

As a composer Leopold is hardly recognized. It is mostly some of his symphonies and his orchestral works of a diverting character which now and then are played and recorded. To the latter category belong the divertimentos Die Bauernhochzeit and Die musikalische Schlittenfahrt; the so-called Toy Symphony - in fact also a divertimento - has long been attributed to Haydn, but is now by and large considered a composition by Leopold. It is a shame that it is merely the lighter side of his oeuvre which is performed. There has always been speculation to what extent Leopold had his hand in the early works of his son. It is for sure that many of these include corrections in the hand of his father.

The repertoire on this disc is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, Leopold Mozart was one of the first who addressed much of his music to amateurs. It doesn't require technical virtuosity, and is of a mostly diverting nature. The three sonatas which Christine Schornsheim plays were published between 1759 and 1763. They are all in three movements, beginning with an allegro, which is followed by an andante. The closing movement of the Sonata in F is called 'presto', which includes an episode described as 'andante grazioso'. The Sonata in B flat ends with an allegro, the Sonata in C with a pair of minuets. Christine Schornsheim doesn't attempt to make too much of them, but rather plays them in a relaxed manner. The repeats of themes and phrases are richly ornamented, as was expected from any performer.

The second interesting aspect concerns the three trios. They are a link between the sonata for violin and basso continuo of the baroque era and the classical keyboard trio. The keyboard and the violin are the main instruments; their relationship is different. Usually the violin is in a dialogue with the right hand of the keyboard part. There are also episodes in which the violin plays colla parte with it. On the other hand, in some passages the violin plays a melody and the harpsichord is reduced to the role of basso continuo. The cello merely supports the bass part and could be omitted. These three trios were written around 1750 and are preserved in an archive. The Trio in F is in four movements; the second is called 'villanesca', the third is a menuet. The Trio in C has only two movements, an andantino and a menuet. The Trio in A is in three movements, again ending with a menuet. The character of these trios has been perfectly captured by the three performers. This is musical entertainment of fine quality and the performances make for good listening.

Considering the date of composition the choice of the fortepiano for the keyboard parts is highly questionable. Christine Schornsheim plays an original instrument by Johann Andreas Stein, a builder of keyboards who was greatly admired by Wolfgang Amadeus. It is one of the few instruments of this builder which has survived, and dates from 1785. It is used in the three keyboard sonatas which were recorded in Augsburg where the fortepiano is kept. The booklet doesn't make it clear whether this fortepiano was also used in the trios. These were recorded in Munich, and I don't know whether this precious instrument is transported to other localities. However, in the time this repertoire was written the harpsichord was still the dominating keyboard instrument. And if we consider that this music was written for amateurs in the first place, it is very unlikely that Leopold had the fortepiano in mind. The liner-notes admit as much. This is not the first disc where the author of the booklet seems to have a different opinion from that of the performers.

Even so, this should not hold anyone back from considering this disc. It is one of the few devoted to Leopold's own compositions. The performances do them full justice. I just hope that some day we will also have the opportunity to listen to some of his vocal music of which he has written quite a lot.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Christine Schornsheim

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