MOZART Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 5
Having previously heard Vilde Frang playing Romantic and 20th-century music, I was delighted to discover that the vitality and sense of freedom she brings to later music is preserved in Mozart; she adopts an airy, graceful style, confining any intense sostenuto to especially expressive moments in slow movements and lyrical episodes. This, along with imagining in detail how to bring out the individuality of each phrase, results in performances that compel the attention and, in the quicker movements, expose all the wit of Mozart’s youthful imagination. In the two solo concertos’ finales, the playing is at times excitingly fiery (especially in the Turkish episode in K219). For the Sinfonia concertante, Frang finds an equally vivacious partner in Maxim Rysanov; the two written-out cadenzas are most imaginatively played and the controlled brilliance of the finale is irresistible.
Generally, Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen give lively support, though occasionally the balance isn’t quite right – the first violins in the opening tutti of the Sinfonia are not always strong enough. But at the start of the following Andante the scene is perfectly set for this sombre movement, by having the second violins playing just as strongly as the firsts.
Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie provide wonderful accompaniments for Hilary Hahn – always finely balanced and expressive, and, in the Vieuxtemps, providing the necessary elements of drama and emotional colour. Hahn explains the surprising combination of these two composers: both works played an important role in her development as a violinist. Her Mozart is elegant, stylish and played throughout with beautiful tone, while lacking something of Frang’s individuality and fantasy. The Vieuxtemps, though, is remarkable, with Hahn playing the role of melodramatic protagonist to perfection; she has a powerful presence and, in the finale, finds a truly heroic tone. The Scherzo, after listening to Viviane Hagner’s scintillating account, sounds maybe a touch too careful, though its pastoral Trio brings some lovely dialogue with horns, oboes and flute. But the performance as a whole, bold in its freedom and air of conviction, would surely have delighted its composer.