Francesca Dego's preview Mozart release on Chandos included just one Violin Sonata (K 304); the balance of the disc was taken up by two violin concertos. It is a treat to have "the Francescas" (Francesca Dego, violin, and Francesca Leonardi on piano) in a whole disc of four sonatas.
Three of the sonatas presented here (K 301, 303, and 305) belong to a set of six which Mozart wrote in Mannheim and Paris, and published in Paris in 1778 as his Opus 1. We begin, though, with the later 1784 Violin Sonata in B flat, K 454, published as Mozart's "Op. 7/3" (we rarely use opus numbers for Mozart these days as the Köchel catalogues and its various appendices offer all one needs).
Listening to the first movement of K 454, we hear all of the core strengths of Dego and Leonardi: crispness of ornamentation from both and a true grasp of Mozart's porcesses. More than any of these, as one listens it becomes obvious that it is rare to hear performances as crisp and as alive as these. K454 is a 25 minute sonata, and Dego and Leonardi project the perfect sense of space combined with Heaven-sent inspiration.
The trio of 1778 Sonatas begins with Mozart's "Op. 1/1," the delightful Violin Sonata in G-Major, K 301. It was with these sonatas that violn and piano become equal partners: the form of the "Sonata for keyboard and violin" had previously been exactly that - keyboard primary, violin subsidiary. The Chandos recording is exemplary, the balance between violin adn piano perfect. Dego and Leonardi project the "con spirito" indication of the first movement to perfection. Leonardo plays a Fazioli piano, known for their clarity and brightness, and it works supremely well with Dego's violin (the recording venue is actally the Fazioli Concert Hall in Casile, Italy). The contrasts the players find in the finale (there are only two movements) are simply beautiful.
The C-Major, K 303 ("Op. 1/3") is a masterpiece, in all respects but perhaps formally particularly, with Mozart playing with our expectations in the first movement and according the Adagio "introduction" a return later in the movement, formalising it as more than an introduction. This is highly sophosticated writing, and receives a highly sophisticated reading to match. Inetresting that Mozart balances this with a Tempo di Menuetto of the utmost grace. Again, the sonata is in two movements only - here the concluding Minuet is actually in sonata form, something we realise as it expands ever outwards!
The entire sonata is a mere 12 minutes (just a touch under, in fact) but contains whole worlds. Dego and Leonardi persuade us here, as in every instance on this disc, that Mozart's Violin Sonatas represent some of his finest pieces. The final Sonata is in A-Major, K 305, again two movements but this time with the second as a theme and variations. the first moveent, though, is as buoyant as can be. The theme of that set of variations is graceful and full of potential for variation - the piano gives the theme with the violin"commenting"; the first variation is for piano alone ("Violino tacet"). The set of six variations in total is a masterclass in teh form, and how wonderful tto have two players who work so closely together that they present every subtle nuance, along with the sense of curiosity and explorarion
Samples are not available on YouTube presently for this release, but we can offer you a live recital from Berea College given in November 2021 by Dego and Leonardi that starts with the Sonata K 305 (the final sonata on the disc) before moving to Beethoven's Violin Sonata Op. 12/3, thence to the Mozart Sonata that begins the Chandos disc, K454, before comcluding with more Beethoven, the Violin Sonata Op. 30/3. Fine performances, all:
And as a bonus, here's another live concert that includes Mozart's K 304 Sonata (not on this disc, so nicely supplementary) plus works by Beethoven (the famous "Spring" Sonata) and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco:Mozart Sonatas Dego Leonardi