Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mozart, Mozart (... and Barylli & Badura-Skoda)

This is a past Tuesday Blog from Feb-17-2015. 

Once Upon the Internet this week takes us back to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for another post in our “Double, Double” series, this time with some pieces for a pair of performers – violinist Walter Barylli and pianist Paul Badura-Skoda.

Badura-Skoda is not in his first visit on our OUTI posts, being part of our very first one (almost three years ago!) and later in more Mozart, as a recitalist in a trio of Mozart piano sonatas. This is, however, Mr. Barylli’s first time here and this merits a few words of introduction.

Walter Barylli is an Austrian violinist who had a distinguished career based in his native Vienna, as concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic from 1938 to 1972, founder and leader of the Barylli string quartet, and Professor of violin at the Vienna City Academy. He studied at the Vienna Music Academy with the Philharmonic Konzertmeister Franz Mairecker and in Munich with Florizel von Reuter.

Barylli gave his first public performance in Munich at age 15 (1936), and over the next two years he made an international career as a soloist: but realizing the difficulty of a career as a travelling soloist in the turmoil of the late 1930s he instead won a place at the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he became Konzertmeister in 1939. Barylli retired from the orchestra in 1973 and taught at the City of Vienna Conservatory from 1969 until 1986. 

Barylli assembled a quartet with leading members of the Vienna Philharmonic, during the war, which morphed into the Barylli quartet, considered as the 'house' quartet of the Vienna Musikverein in the 1950’s. 

When considering Mozart’s violin sonata output, scholars are quick to distinguish his “childhood” sonatas (K 6-15 and K 26-31) from his “mature” sonatas (numbered 17 to 36), composed in the decade spanning 1778 and 1788. As we know, Mozart was adept at both the violin and piano and, if he was writing these to his level of prowess at the instrument, we have to ask ourselves (as Leonard Bernstein might have, borrowing from one of his famous questions) , who’s the boss in the Mozart sonatas for violin and piano – the violinist or the pianist?

The answer is probably a little bit of both, since these sonatas don’t necessarily identify one or the other as the “marquee” instrument. These aren’t sonatas for violin with piano, or for piano with violin… This is a balancing act that can only be repeated decades later by Beethoven in his set of 10 or so sonatas for the same duo combination.

What I truly love about these vintage performances is exactly how this balance is achieved, as tantôt Mr. Badura-Skoda takes the lead, and tantôt Mr. Barylli takes over. Fort these sonatas to work, you need two virtuosi of equal capability, who have the same commitment to the piece. To that end, you will be hard-pressed to find a better performance.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Sonata No. 18 in G major, K. 301
Violin Sonata No. 22 in A major, K. 305
Violin Sonata No. 24 in F major, K. 376
Violin Sonata No. 25 in F major, K. 377
Violin Sonata No. 33 in E-flat major, K. 481

Walter Baylli, violin
Paul Badura-Skoda, piano
Downloaded from Public Domain Classic, January 2011