In 2013 a private benefactress donated a violin made by Pietro Antonio Dalla Costa (active c.1720-c.1768) in 1764 to the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation. It is believed that Mozart (1756-1791) owned and played the violin during the years he lived in Vienna.
The so-called Costa Violin was purchased privately by Dr Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller, chief executive officer of the TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG based in Ditzingen near Stuttgart and donated to the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation.
According to the label stuck inside the violin the instrument was made in 1764 by Pietro Antonio Dalla Costa. Experts are of the opinion that the violin is an authentic instrument made by this highly respected member of the so-called Venetian school of violin makers. The complete history of the instrument can be traced from the time when it was made to the present.
In 1909 the Costa Violin was bought by the company W. E. Hill & Sons in London. The previous owner, the violinist Karl Henkel, explained that his father Heinrich Henkel had bought the violin around 1840 from the music publisher Johann Anton André in Offenbach. André always described the instrument, which he had acquired from Mozart’s widow in 1799, as part of the composer’s musical estate, as ‘Mozart’s violin.’ During the 1940s and 1950s the instrument was discussed and photographically documented in some specialist journals but before the dissolution of Hill and Sons in the 1980s the violin was never played in public or scientifically studied. The violin was then acquired by a businessman and amateur musician in southern Germany. www.mozarteum.at/en/content/news/189
A concert took place on 14th November 2013 in the Großer Saal der Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg when Esther Hoppe www.estherhoppe.com played this very instrument in a prgrammme of works for violin and piano by Schubert and Mozart with Florian Birsak http://clavichord.typepad.com/florianbirsak playing a Flügel Hammerklavier built by Conrad Graf in 1839. This concert was recorded and has now been released by Belvedere http://store.harmoniamundi.com
Esther Hoppe and Florian Birsak open with Franz Schubert’s (1797-1828) Sonata in D major, D.384. They provide a nicely shaped Allegro molto where the tone of these instruments lays bare Schubert’s textures. They bring a lovely, well phrased and paced Andante revealing a delicacy and poise and, as the movement progresses, Hoppe finds a real singing lyricism with Birsak revealing passages of lovely Schubertian charm. There is an attractive Allegro vivace full of high spirits and joie de vivre with a fine buoyancy and some terrific timbres from this violin toward the coda.
Birsak brings a finely textured fortepiano introduction to the Andante, ma un poco adagio of Mozart’s Andante and Fugue from the incomplete Violin Sonata in A major, KV.402. When Hoppe enters they bring some very finely blended textures, full of character and beautifully phrased. There is a lovely transition into the Allegro moderato, with these two fine players slowly weaving some delicious lines around each other as the fugal theme develops, creating a terrific dialogue.
The Allegro moderato of Schubert’s Sonata in A minor, D.385 has a wonderfully hushed fortepiano opening that gives way to a dramatic sequence for fortepiano and violin, the fortepiano finding lovely rolling phrases. Hoppe joins with some lovely textures and sonorities, later picking up rhythmically and dynamically. Both find some quite lovely moments with sudden dramatic outbursts bringing a fine contrast.
The Andante has a lovely ebb and flow as it finds its way ahead with some particularly fine passages for fortepiano that bring a fine breadth. There are some lovely flowing descending phrases where time is allowed for this music to breathe.
The way these two bring a swagger to the rising motif of the Menuetto: Allegro – Trio is delightful with a lightness of touch that brings lovely textures and timbres from their instruments.
Hoppe brings a heartfelt violin tone to the Allegro over a beautifully fluid fortepiano accompaniment, rising dramatically with these two responding brilliantly.
They draw some fine textures together in the opening bars of the Largo – Allegro of Mozart’s Sonata in B flat major, K.454 before Hoppe finds some lovely little textures over rippling fortepiano phrases. They pick up the pace for the allegro with some brilliantly fluent passages, Hoppe providing some lovely singing phrases before a quite lovely coda.
The Andante brings more lovely textures, Hoppe making much of her instrument’s gut strings. There are some beautifully controlled, quieter phrases before they weave their way to a fine coda.
Again there is a lovely light touch to the beginning of the Allegretto where these two fine players bring some tightly controlled, incisive phrases. Birsak finds some lovely deep fortepiano tones and Hoppe some very fine violin sonorities towards the coda.
Finally they play the Andante from Mozart’s Sonata in A major, K.526 bringing a fine flow and poise, both finding a lovely tempo, weaving some fine passages with delicate fortepiano phrases and some rich violin textures. In the longer violin phrases Hoppe reveals a lovely tone.
Though many Mozart and violin enthusiasts will want this disc for the instrument alone, the many merits of these fine performances should not be overlooked with Esther Hoppe and Florian Birsak bringing performances full of character with fine textures and much feeling.
The live recording is close and detailed though a little more warmth would have been welcome. There is applause at the end of each complete work. There are interesting booklet notes on the violin and its history.