Friday, October 19, 2012

Mozart Violin Sonatas (Schneider & Kirkpatrick)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
This Sunday is the birthday of the Lithuanian-born violinist, conductor and teacher Alexander Schneider (1908-1993), perhaps best known for his work with the Budapest String Quartet, of which he was second violinist from 1932 to 1944 and again from 1956 to their disbanding in 1967.  In between his two stints with the Quartet, he was involved in a variety of projects, perhaps the most famous being organizing the Prades Festival with Pablo Casals.  One of the most intriguing projects was a fruitful collaboration begun in 1944 with the harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick (1911-1984), which even resulted in a number of contemporary works being written for them, including a sonata by Milhaud and a Sonatina by Walter Piston.  They recorded the latter work, as well as six Bach sonatas, six by Handel, and eight by Mozart.  The duo's first appearance on records was this album of three Mozart sonatas:

Mozart: Violin Sonatas, K. 296, 378 and 379
Alexander Schneider, violin; Ralph Kirkpatrick, harpsichord
Recorded November 26-28, 1945
Columbia Masterworks set MM-650, six 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 132.25 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 70.02 MB)

At the time, the substitution of a harpsichord for the piano in these works was somewhat controversial, and still might raise some eyebrows; but it must be understood that the pianos of Mozart's time were actually closer in sonority to the harpsichord than to the modern grand piano, and in 1945 replicas of fortepianos (the term that has come to be used for early pianos) were still a good twenty or thirty years in the future.  So the use of the harpsichord here represents a compromise, although in truth it works better in the earliest Mozart violin sonatas than in the later ones.  Ralph Kirkpatrick, with all his artistry, was probably the only harpsichordist at the time who was able to pull it off convincingly.


  1. Oh, great, thanks so much - I've been wanting to hear these for some time! Best wishes, Nick

  2. Hadn't heard these for ages! I'd call it an "interesting" idea
    which doesn't really work - and even less in 454, 481 & 526. Tho'I freely confess that Kraus and Goldberg pretty much spoiled
    me for anybody else. And speaking of Kraus, an anthology of her
    prewar solo Mozart [such as 457/475] and Schubert [op,143] are
    much needed,untouched by Pearl, Biddulph etc. when they were alive.

    Keep up your yeoman work!

    Mike in Plovdiv

  3. Please,
    Could you tell me password to this file ?


  4. There is no password! Is mediafire asking you for one? They should not be doing that.

  5. Does not work for me. Maybe with the violin as Mozart knew it (gut strings, shorter neck, etc.) and with someone like Emil Hauser, the original Budapest SQ 1st violinist, who has more reserve and taste than Schneider, the 2nd generation Russian BSQ 1st fiddle. Interesting nonetheless. TY for posting.

    1. It didn't much work for Irving Kolodin either. In his "New Guide to Recorded Music" (1950), he calls the harpsichord substitution "a mere excuse to conceal the obvious fact that Schneider and Kirkpatrick like to play together and have devoted themselves mainly to Bach, in which the harpsichord is, largely speaking, acceptable." I have Nos. 3-6 of their Bach sonatas on 10" LPs and really should transfer them someday.

  6. Thank you very much!

    Ich have a rip of an LP from about 1954 with 5 sonatas (K 296 302 378 379 306). But your transpcriton from the original shellacs sounds better, with more color and 'open' sound!
    Also the included list of the recordings is very interessant.
    Have you other recordings of this duo, especially the Bach-sonatas?