Mozart's Violin Concertos: a quick guide to the essential recordings

Gramophone Wed 21st February 2018

Three highly recommended recordings, one of which won the 2017 Recording of the Year Award

Gramophone's David Threasher noted in his review of Isabelle Faust's recording of Mozart's Violin Concertos that 'Mozart’s violin concertos are never far from the centre of any violinist’s repertoire. Written while the composer was still a teenager, they can hardly be considered among his deepest music (the string concerto masterpiece is, of course, the magnificent Sinfonia concertante of 1779-80), yet they maintain all the galant charm and suavity of the period as we hear the boy coming of age, experimenting with forms and growing more harmonically daring and melodically assured.'

Here are three outstanding, and contrasting, recordings to explore...

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Mozart Violin Concertos Nos 1-5. Adagio, K261. Rondos – K269; K373 

Isabelle Faust vn Il Giardino Armonico / Giovanni Antonini 

Harmonia Mundi

Gramophone Recording of the Year 2017 

'For Isabelle Faust’s recording of the five concertos, she teams up for the first time with the period instruments of Il Giardino Armonico. Giovanni Antonini is the nominal conductor but these wonderful performances have the air of chamber music, of close listening between soloist, band and director. Faust isn’t spotlit in the remarkably clear engineering but seems part of the ensemble, her sound growing out of the corporate entity to glitter, coax, snarl and soar as required. She has always struck me as a player who cannot help but look beyond the notes, examining each phrase and paragraph to wring out of them more than simply phrases and paragraphs. She varies her ornamentation delightfully and, as an added treat, plays cadenzas and lead-ins specially written by the keyboard player Andreas Staier, who knows a thing or two about 18th-century style...'

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Mozart Violin Concertos Nos 1-5

Giuliano Carmignola vn Mozart Orchestra / Claudio Abbado

(Archiv)

'Virtuoso “violinism” and energising direction notwithstanding, neither Giuliano Carmignola nor Claudio Abbado seems inspired by the B flat Concerto, K207. Nor does slick dispatch do much for the first movement of the D major, K211; but this is not the shape of things to come. Carmignola steps away from neutrality in the succeeding Andante. The music breathes a life of its own as he ardently inflects its phrases to shape the tension and relaxation of his line which – as elsewhere – he also embellishes. And pauses are decorated with lead-ins. Here is personal involvement that from now on is present in full flower...'

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Mozart Violin Concertos Nos 1-5. Sinfonia concertante

Arthur Grumiaux vn LSO / Colin Davis; New Philharmonia Orchestra / Raymond Leppard

Philips

'The Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux made his debut in 1940 and established himself after the war as a consistently fine player with a wide repertory whose recordings show not only his mastery of the instrument but also unfailingly good taste – and lest anyone thinks that last phrase implies a lack of personality, we should remember that it was one which Haydn chose to praise Mozart. These performances of the five standard violin concertos, the Sinfonia concertante and a couple of other pieces were admired when they came out on LP, and still earn praise for their crispness, lightness and eloquence...'

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These 'Quick Guides' are designed to give an easy overview of some of the finest recordings of a given work. We have produced similar guides to Bach's Goldberg Variations, Handel's Water Music and Barber's Adagio for Strings  

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