LATE DATES WITH MOZARTThree Late Sonatas for Piano and Violin
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
STEPHANIE SANT'AMBROGIO, violin
JAMES WINN, piano
"...these dates with Mozart go very well; the pair seem to hit it off together. Sant’Ambrogio is an experienced chamber player who also served as concertmaster of the San Antonio Symphony for a number of years. Her tone is dead-on and unwavering, and she shades this music with a practiced hand. James Winn, who has appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is an excellent partner; for a guy who’s reportedly a champion of new music, he understands this old music thoroughly and brings as much light and shade to it as Ms. Sant’Ambrogio does. The recording...has real presence of the proverbial 'right there in the room with you' kind... this is a very recommendable survey of Mozart’s finest works for violin."
Lee Passarella, Audiophile Audition - September 2010
"This recording of late sonatas...is elegant, tasteful, and intelligent. Sant’Ambrogio and Winn use light embellishments and play with just the right amount of imagination, keeping the lines clean, clear, and forward moving, without stepping beyond the conventions of the period. Only violinists and their duo partners understand just how difficult it is to play these later Mozart sonatas cleanly and elegantly, particularly on modern instruments using a modern approach to sound production. This recording is a superb example of the great possibilities of expression in Mozart without the need to either over-intellectualize it or apply stylistic anachronisms. There is no funny stuff here: these musicians keep the music interesting without adding unnecessary effects. I love the way they keep their attention (and hold mine) through the entire length of Mozart’s mind-bogglingly long phrases. The unison passages in II of K 526 are particularly impressive, and I love the way they play II and III of the very-difficult E-flat major Sonata, K 481. But all the playing is wonderful. Recommended."
Fine, American Record Guide - July/August 2010
Turok's Choice, No.223 - July 2010
"The recorded sound, hardly over-reverberant, presents a balanced, close-up portrait of the performers. These sweet-toned, elegant readings [are] suavely pleasant, jovial, and engagingly conversational. Recommended."
Robert Maxham, Fanfare - July/August 2010
"...an often charming interplay between the two instruments which is joyfully captured by both players. Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio and James Winn expertly rise to the challenge."
Jeff Perkins, BlogCritics - June 2010
"Violinist Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio comes from an acclaimed musical family. Her father John Sant’Ambrogio was first chair cellist of the St. Louis Symphony for four decades, and her sister Sara is well known as a member of the Eroica Trio. What genes did not equip her from the outset, Stephanie has supplied abundantly with her acquired style, her beautiful tone, and the sheer elegance of her technique... The spontaneity with which Sant’Ambrogio and Winn interact captures [this music with the] necessary feeling of utter naturalness, the deceptive impression that what we are hearing is the most exalted improvisation, which is the final achievement of Mozart’s art. Sant’Ambrogio maintains a firm, well-formed melody line, and the tone of her Guadagnini fits the music like a glove. Winn keeps the composer’s Alberti basses in the left hand from falling into predicable patterns, and pacing by both players is alert throughout the program."
Phil Muse, Audio Society of Atlanta - March 2010
“[Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio and pianist James Winn] catch this aspect of the music nicely; Sant’Ambrogio is alert to the places where the violin breaks out from its accompanimental role and unexpectedly inserts itself into the dialogue. The duo's performances have an attractive hint of puckish humor in the outer movements.” [ * * * (*) ]
James Manheim, All Music Guide – May 2010
PROGRAM NOTESMozart’s relationship to the violin sonata can be traced to the first years of his career as a child prodigy; his first four opuses were collections of violin sonatas in the Italian style, published in Paris starting in 1764 when the composer was just eight years old. Of course, by this time Mozart was already an experienced touring violinist and these early works were probably intended for his own performances. The sonatas represented on this disc are from much later in the composer’s career, long after his child celebrity days had ended, beginning when the composer as a not yet 30-year-old man was just another struggling musician competing for the limited opportunities available in Europe. Mozart had spent much of the 1770s searching for better employment than he had at the provincial court of Salzburg, where he found it difficult fulfilling his duties for church and court. His continual begging for dismissal from his employer there, the Archbishop Colloredo, ultimately paid off and he finally settled in Vienna as an independent musician in 1781. One of the first things he did after establishing himself in Vienna was to publish a set of violin sonatas. His profile was rising as a composer, but he was primarily known during these years as a virtuoso keyboard player, competing in—and reputedly winning—a contest played before the Emperor Joseph II in 1782 against the famous Italian Muzio Clementi.
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Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio joined the Argenta Trio in 2007 when she was appointed Assistant Professor of Violin and Viola, and Director of the Orchestral Career Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Concertmaster of the San Antonio Symphony for thirteen years, and Founder and Artistic Director of the nationally acclaimed Cactus Pear Music Festival, Ms. Sant’Ambrogio was previously the First Assistant Principal Second Violin of The Cleveland Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnanyi. She has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the U.S. as well as in Canada, Estonia, Sweden, Ghana, Italy, Chile, Peru and Mexico. She is a frequent guest at summer music festivals in North America and is Concertmaster of the Lancaster Festival Orchestra under Maestro Gary Sheldon. She is devoted to teaching serious young violinists, many of whom have successfully chosen careers in music. Ms. Sant’Ambrogio studied with and was the graduate assistant to Donald Weilerstein at The Eastman School of Music, where she received her Master of Music degree. She received her Bachelor of Music degree with distinction from Indiana University as a scholarship student of James Buswell and Laurence Shapiro. Ms. Sant’Ambrogio plays a 1757 J.B. Guadagnini violin from Milan.
James Winn, piano and composition professor at the University of Nevada, Reno since 1997, performs widely in North America, Europe, and Japan. Dr. Winn has been a solo pianist with the New York City Ballet, a member of New York New Music Ensemble, and a frequent guest with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Speculum, the Group for Contemporary Music, and Bargemusic among others. Well-known as a champion of new music, he has been involved in numerous world premieres and premiere recordings by many renowned composers, among them 13 Pulitzer Prize winners. He is currently a member of the Argenta Trio, UNR’s resident chamber group, the pianist of the Telluride Chamber Music Festival, and performs regularly in recital with internationally acclaimed New York-based violinist Rolf Schulte. An active recording artist, Winn is featured in more than three dozen CDs as soloist, chamber musician and composer. Dr. Winn is a prolific composer whose compositions have been performed internationally.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Sonata in A major, K. 526