Mozart The Sonatas for Violin and Piano

It is particularly felicitous that Shumsky and Balsam, both very experienced chamber musicians, should have come together to record Mozart’s music for violin and piano. Their respective musical personalities, though very different, complemented each other, Shumsky’s bold lyricism illuminating Balsam’s stylish and fluent approach. Their playing is notable for its spontaneity, alertness and authority; note Shumsky’s deftly varied inflections when repeating the variations in the second movement of K377, the liberating sense of vitality in the first movement of K526 and both players’ sympathetic, clear-eyed approach to the Sonata in F, K547 and the two sets of variations. In all these works the interpreters’ mature artistry is completely at the service of the music.


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Balsam and Shumsky have rather contrasting personalities: the pianist is so much used to taking a supportive role that he only makes very mild forays into playing assertively. Shumsky, on the other hand, whilst also being a very experienced chamber player, has a stronger personality, and yet is able to restrain this to suit Balsam's style. And what style Balsam has in this repertoire! The ornamentation is so finely integrated into the passagework that the music achieves a truly impressive fluency. Even when the duo are at their less inspired, as in the first movements of K306 and 378, the standard of playing is sufficiently high to command authority.

The Balsam and Shumsky recording was originally released by the Musical Heritage Society in the USA The consistently high standard that these American artists achieve will satisfy the majority of tastes, I think, with the most successful sonatas, such as K305 and 379, coming off especially well.
J.M-C., Gramophone



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