With this release of the complete piano chamber music by Franz Xaver Mozart, the Equilibrium label not only fills an essential gap in the catalog but also adds rare substance to our perception of the composer’s father, Wolfgang Amadeus. Franz Xaver’s chamber music with piano is made up of two violin sonatas, a sonata for cello and a quartet for piano and strings. All four works are on this CD. I couldn’t find any evidence these sonatas have been recorded before, but for sure, there are no alternate versions currently available.
Born in 1791, Franz Xaver was the youngest of six children born to Wolfgang Amadeus and Constanze Mozart, only two of whom survived infancy. Born only four months before his father’s death, Franz Xaver must nevertheless have felt the full force of his father’s greatness throughout his life, especially as he too was a composer. There’s little doubt that being the son of Mozart opened doors for the young Franz Xaver; he was a student of Albrechtsberger, Salieri, and Hummel and found employment among royalty and the aristocracy.
His output as a composer is relatively small and is virtually all chamber music and pieces for solo piano. The sample track posted in the sidebar with this recommendation is the third movement Presto of the Violin Sonata Op. 7. It’s typical of the finales to F.X. Mozart’s solo sonatas, lively and uncomplicated with the two instruments as equal partners, sharing and trading off the melodic material The video below is the opening Allegro vivace to the Quartet for Piano and Strings, Op. 1, although it should be noted that the performance was not pulled from this album. These two samples give a good feeling for the composer’s late Classical/early Romantic style, and if you enjoy it, you’ll find much more music of its kind on this album.
The performances are by an excellent group of soloists: violinists Aaron Berofsky and Kathryn Votapek, cellist Suren Bagratuni and pianist Christopher Harding. Equilibrium supplies good sound. Perhaps not a library essential, but if Franz Xaver Mozart is not currently represented in your collection, this release provides a neat and enjoyable remedy.
The influence of fathers on the lives of their sons in the Mozart family would make a fascinating study. The very complicated relationship of Leopold (1719-1787) to his son Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791); the physical absence of Wolfgang in his son Franz Xaver’s life (the latter was born little more than four months before his father’s death) — the overwhelming if benign weight of greatness bequeathed to Franz Xaver by Wolfgang surely must have been as shaping an influence as the hands-on training and fatherly domination of Wolfgang by Leopold.
The two sonatas for Violin and Piano (Franz Xaver played both instruments with excellent proficiency) were composed at different times but in the same town: Lemberg, which is situated in western Ukraine and today is known as Lviv. It is a city with a fascinating history, having been part of the Kingdom of Poland until 1792 and after that a part of the Austrian Empire until 1918. It was and is a significant center of many cultures’ art, and Franz Xaver spent the bulk of his adult life teaching and contributing to the music scene there. In 1808, newly appointed as a music teacher to the daughters of the Polish Count Wiktor Baworowski, he produced his sonata in B-flat Major Op. 7. Op. 15, a somewhat larger sonata in F Major, was produced at another turning point in his life: the transition from a music teacher in the home of noble officials to a freelance musician much in the style of his father twenty-five years earlier in Vienna. Such occasions are wonderful opportunities for new compositions to showcase one’s abilities and creativity.
Franz Xaver Mozart, composer
Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (1791 – 1844), also known as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jr., was the youngest child of six born to W. A. Mozart and his wife, Constanze. He was the younger of his parents’ two surviving children. He was a composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher whose musical style was an early Romanticism, heavily influenced by his father’s mature style. en.wikipedia.org
Aaron Berofsky, violin
Violinist Aaron Berofsky has toured extensively throughout the United States and abroad, gaining full recognition as a soloist and chamber musician. As a soloist, he has performed with orchestras in the United States, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Canada. http://www.aaronberofsky.com/
Suren Bagratani, cello
Winner of the silver medal at the 1986 International Tchaikovsky Competition while still a student at the Moscow Conservatory, Bagratuni has gone on to a distinguished international career as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician.
Kathryn Votapek, violin
A member of the Chester String Quartet for 15 years, violinist and violist Kathryn Votapek maintains an active career as a soloist and as a guest artist at chamber music festivals throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Central America.
Christopher Harding, piano
Pianist Christopher Harding maintains a flourishing international performance career, generating acclaim and impressing audiences and critics alike with his substantive interpretations and pianistic mastery. He has given frequent solo, concerto, and chamber music performances in venues as far-flung as Suntory Hall in Tokyo.