Mozart Concertone; Rondo K273; Sinfonia Concertante

A vital, graceful Mozart partnership puts this version among the best

Author: 
Richard Wigmore

Mozart Concertone; Rondo K273; Sinfonia Concertante

  • Sinfonia concertante

Yakov Kreizberg launches the Sinfonia concertante in emphatic style: a no-nonsense tempo, lashing sforzando accents, a powerful forward impetus. Mozart’s thrilling take on the slow-burn “Mannheim crescendo” has an almost ferocious intensity, enhanced by the recording’s wide dynamic range. Then, from their seraphic first entry, the octaves perfectly in tune, the two soloists balance fire and finesse in a true partnership of equals. So often in this work the violinist outguns the viola player in personality and technique. But not here. Gordan Nikolitch’s rich, throaty viola beautifully complements Julia Fischer’s silvery sweetness. Mozart would surely have relished their vital, gracefully finished phrasing and the way they respond creatively to each other. Rival performers, including Augustin Dumay and Veronika Hagen (DG, 12/00), Gidon Kremer and Kim Kashkashian (DG, 12/84R) and Iona Brown and Nobuko Imai (Philips), are more responsive to Mozart’s maestoso marking and more flexible in their shaping of the lyrical melodies. Once or twice, as in the C minor theme at 2'52", Fischer and Nikolitch can slightly gloss over the music’s pathos. But the sweep, élan and sheer technical aplomb of their playing are certainly compelling.

Again, Fischer and Nikolitch use rubato sparingly in the C minor Andante, a transfigured love duet triste. Abetted by Kreizberg, they focus on the longer line, phrasing in broad, eloquent paragraphs and catching more than most an underlying agitation. The finale mingles grace and athletic exuberance, with the players vying delightedly in their bouts of bravura. Though the recording, made in a large church, is a tad boomy, this ranks high among modern recordings of this inexhaustible masterpiece. As light relief, we also get Fischer’s puckish reading of the Rondo, K373, and a sprightly, occasionally (in the finale) impetuous performance of the innocuously charming Concertone, K190, where oboist Hans Meyer fully matches his violinist accomplices in wit and flair.

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