BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto. MOZART Quintet. SCHUMANN Phantasie
It may seem brave (or perhaps foolhardy) for a relatively new ensemble and a youngish soloist/director – Sebastian Bohren (b1987) – to launch themselves into the world with a recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. Nevertheless, that’s what the CHAARTS Chamber Artists have done. Full marks for ambition. And as these musicians are plucked from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and inspired by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (both projects of Claudio Abbado), they will have learnt a few things along the way. So what if they miss the gravitas of the epic first movement or the meditative stillness of the Larghetto? They make up for it in clarity, perfect ensemble born of close listening, and palpable dedication to the music. The Rondo finale might be the most successful movement, with the lighter forces contributing to its easy-going progress.
Bohren presents an admirable take on Schumann’s Phantasie too: cooler and more of a piece than Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s molten approach on her recent recording (Audite, 5/16) – but then, he’s clearly a very different sort of violinist. This Phantasie hangs together as it should and comes over less episodically than it often does.
The disc closes with Mozart reimagined by Jean Françaix. The Quintet for piano and winds is such a perfect and unusual piece in its uniquely pungent scoring – at least until Beethoven tried his hand at it – that one wonders why the Frenchman felt the need. Still, there it is, and it’s hard to fault this loving performance of such a loveable work. The disc is called ‘Equal’ and, all being so, comes as a distinctive calling card for an ensemble it may well prove worth following.