The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Gil Shaham (violin) Orli Shaham (piano)
Mozart was 22 when he arrived in Paris in 1778, free of his father’s presence. With his ever-commercial mind, had brought a portfolio of works containing four violin sonatas, to which he intended to add a further two before publication. Though dates of composition are not clear, their similarity of style would place them very close to his French visit, with the sixth and only sonata in three movements certainly of Parisian origin.
Gil and Orli Shaham make a formidable duo, playing with a freedom of expression that allows phrases to be shaped with a degree of affectionate rubato that would probably have surprised the composer. Whether they take this too far will be measured by your response to the mannered way they approach the hesitations in the minuet of K304. I am happier in the fast movements when there are fewer opportunities to manipulate the music’s forward momentum.
There is a depth of mutual understanding that achieves impeccable ensemble even when quiet moments tempt an unmarked slowing of the pulse. Gil Shaham has added an array of subtle changes of colour to enhance the slow movements, intonation throughout is spotlessly clean and his bowing brings seamless phrasing.
The recording balance gives the instruments equal weight, but if you have been following the period-instrument performances of the complete Mozart sonatas from Rachel Podger and Gary Cooper (Channel Classics), you will find the Shahams’ well padded quality some distance away from the 18th century.