Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov’s Wonderful Mozart Violin Sonatas (vol. 2)

It’s been a while

Wow, sorry guys, this must have been potentially the longest break ever between posts. But the last six weeks have been packed with travel and family issues, including a trip to China mid January just some days before the Coronavirus issue got really big (and many people kept looking at me like a walking zombie that is just about to bite them for a while).

On top of that I must admit among the new releases of the last 6 weeks, there weren’t a lot of new recordings that really got me excited. And if I’m not passionate about something, I just don’t like writing about it. That’s why you don’t find a lot of 3 star reviews on my blog. The bias of being able to write just what you like.

Therefore I’m pleased to say I finally found a recording that really is making me happy to get me started again, and I have a couple of other reviews in the backlog for the next weeks.

Isabelle Faust & Alexander Melnikov – Mozart Sonatas for Fortepiano and Violin vol. 2 (Harmonia Mundi 2020)

OK, let’s get the obvious elephant in the room out of the way: I’m a self declared fanboy of Isabelle Faust, and have praised pretty much every single one of her recordings on this blog (one exception, to prove the point that it’s not just her name, is her recording of the Mendelssohn concerto which I really didn’t like that much).

So take this review with a grain of salt (although several professional reviewers agree that among all the amazing violin talents we have today, Faust may be the one that truly stands out).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sonatas fro fortepiano & violin Isabelle Faust Alexander Melnikov Harmonia Mundi 2020 24 96

It gets even more interesting as my previous favourite version of these works is by another fantastic violin player that approaches this from the baroque side, Rachel Podger (see my review here, and I also included this album into my Must Have Mozart Albums).

This is volume 2, so you are going to ask me, why didn’t I write about volume 1? Honestly, it just slipped my attention.

That said, what I particularly like about vol. 2 is the choice of the works. Mozart’s violin sonatas are all works that were written by a young Mozart, and often for advanced amateurs, so they could be played at home. So some of the works are really just a bit too light. But particularly KV376 and 378 are works that really stand on their own, and deserve to be heard.

Isabelle Faust’s wonderful Sleeping Beauty, together with Alexander Melnikov, plays a Fortepiano replica by Christoph Kern, modelled after an Anton Walter from 1795, produce a beautiful sound. These two musicians have played together a lot and you can really hear that, the interplay between the two is just outstanding.

Now, the obvious comparison: Do I prefer this or Rachel Podger? Well, between the two, Faust is somewhat more shiny and brilliant, think of sparkling jewellery, while Podger and Cooper have a slightly more slower, more velvety approach. Both are outstanding performances, so it will be your taste that you need to ask which one to get (or just get both).

The only additional complication in the game is that another fantastic violin player, the great Alina Ibragimova, has released some of the violin sonatas on Hyperion, with Cedric Tiberghien playing a modern piano. Hyperion doesn’t allow streaming, so I could only compare snippets, and on these I prefer Faust. But you should check these ones out as well.

My rating: 5 stars (ok, Mozart’s violin sonatas are not by themselves 5 star repertoire, but I find this album so pleasing that I just ignore my own criteria).

You can find it here (Qobuz)

UPDATE Feb 29, 2020: Gramophone agrees, giving this album an Editor’s Choice in the March 2020 edition.

Author: Musicophile

I'm not a professional musician, I don't work in the music industry, I'm just what the name says, somebody who loves music. I've been in love with music for all of my life, took piano lessons for nearly 10 years, and played in several amateur Jazz groups. I go to concerts, both classical and Jazz, quite regularly. And I collect music previously on vinyl and CDs, now on my computer, and am slightly OCD on my music collection. You can reach me at Musicophile1(AT)gmail.com

8 thoughts on “Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov’s Wonderful Mozart Violin Sonatas (vol. 2)”

  1. I’m just as much a fan of Faust and Melnikov — and Ibragimova — as you are, and I should really look into these recordings (and the one with Rachel Podger)… Still, the one performance (of K.305) which blew me away instantly is not an audio recording, just a live performance on YouTube … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxWqGxENQ84
    Best wishes, -R.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for turning me on to that YouTube clip. That is spectacular music making! I recently saw Faust, Melnikov, and Queyras in San Francisco playing Beethoven trios. They were very fine, but nothing as impassioned as that clip.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My preference goes to Podger by a wide margin. The more discrete, « chambriste » tone of his recordings is much more to my taste here than Faust’s dynamic approach.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I fully understand that point of view. I agree Podger‘s approach is more what Mozart probably had in mind when he wrote this. That said, Injusr love Faust‘s playing here and it just works for me.

      Like

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