Thursday, March 12, 2009

In review--Mozart!

Petra Mullejans and Kristian Bezuidenhout
Mozart Sonatas for fortepiano and violin
Harmonia Mundi

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart needs little introduction to this blog or to anyone seeking the healing effects of music. "The Mozart Effect" both a book by Don Campbell and a concept from the late Doctor Alfred Tomatis, (the famous ear nose and throat specialist), caused Mozart's popularity to rise among young mothers, children with disabilities, and students on a quest to raise their IQ levels. And other medical miracles have also been accredited to the music of Mozart, a child prodigy and genius who died a pauper while still in his early thirties.

While I tend to favor Mozart's concertos, Clarinet Concerto in B-flat major, Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major and Horn Concerto No. 4 in E-flat major, along with Mozart's operas, I am delighted to review, Mozart Sonatas for fortepiano and violin performed by German violinist Petra Mullejans and South African pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout. The album features four piano and violin sonatas ranging from 1778 to 1784.

Although for some reason, the work from 1784, Sonata K.454 appears first on the recording, followed by Sonata K. 379 (1781), Six Variations on "Au bord d'une fontaine" (1778) and Sonata K. 296 (1778). My two favorite sonatas were the first and the last ones on the recording. I also want to note that the landlady's cat sat peacefully on the porch listening to the first two sonatas, but left during the third one. I also felt tense and restless during the third sonata for whatever reason. It felt repetitive to me. I prefer Mozart's lyrical passages the most which were usually the second movements of the sonatas.

The liner notes attribute qualities and stories to each of the sonatas. For instance, it's hard to imagine, but Sonata in G major--K. 379 was composed in one hour. Actually the violin part originally performed by Antonio Brunetti had been composed in an hour and Mozart improvised the clavichord part during the recital. Sonata in B-flat major, K. 454 was originally performed by Mozart on piano and renowned Mantuan violinist Regina Strinasacchi, a musician held in great esteem by Mozart and his father.

Overall, Mozart Sonatas possesses some relaxing and poetic qualities. I had to tear myself away from my busy life and take a deep listen to this recording. I think I could learn a good lesson from my landlady's cat who practically meditated during the length of the first two sonatas. Too bad she missed the final one on the recording. Perhaps that would have caused the cat to feel too much ecstasy for one day.

Petra Mullejans and Kristian Bezuidenhout will be touring the U.S. promoting this new recording. Please visit harmonia mundi for more details.

Note "The Mozart Effect" was also coined by a research study at a Californian university where students' IQ levels were tested after the students listened to Mozart's music. The study however is controversial and brought up more questions than answers.