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Briefly Noted: A Due

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Mozart / Michael Haydn, Duo Sonatas (violin, viola), R. Podger, J. Rogers

(released on December 13, 2011)
CCS SA 32411 | 72'37"
Mozart, who played both the violin and viola with considerable talent, wrote two duos for those two instruments (K. 423 and 424). Both are quite beautiful pieces, and both have been recorded several times, although perhaps never quite as stylishly as in this recent release from Channel Classics. In a booklet note, Rachel Podger and Jane Rogers describe their long-held love for the Mozart duos, having played them together for years, including to "busk as teenagers to earn extra pocket money." The genre goes back at least to a set of six sonatas, described as being for solo violin with viola accompaniment, by Joseph Haydn, made for his musicians at Eszterhazá around the year 1770. According to an anecdote told by early biographers of Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn was struggling to complete a set of six such duos for the Archbishop of Salzburg, in 1783, because he was gravely ill. His friend, Mozart, offered his two duos to complete the set, and although the story may be apocryphal, it makes one wish that Podger and Rogers had also recorded Michael Haydn's nos. 3 and 4 for this set, the only deficit that limits the possible appeal of this excellent recording. The clarity of Rachel Podger's tone, which we have admired so many times before, is still quite marvelous, clean without being colorless or boring, and she has an apparent comfort in playing with Jane Rogers, a colleague in the English Concert and other ensembles for many years. They admit that the Michael Haydn pieces (see the score for the C major, MH 335) were "previously unknown to us both," and the sense of avid discovery is perceptible. As a lagniappe, we get a funny little F major Menuett by Mozart, adapted from the 12 Duos for Horn, K. 487, with an accented low C repeatedly eructed by the viola in the A phrase making for a hearty laugh.

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