Mozart Violin Concertos Nos 1 - 3
As if hell-bent on freeing Mozart from any taint of rococo prettiness, Fabio Biondi gives the fastest, most abrasive performances of these concertos I ever expect to hear. Some listeners may find them exhilarating; but after an hour of Biondi and his hyperactive band, I felt as blown and buffeted as the murderer in Macbeth. The first movement of K207 sets the tone. There’s splenetic energy to spare. But if you want wit, grace, charm – and a tempo that takes note of Mozart’s prescribed moderato – then look to Victoria Mullova (Philips, 11/02) or Monica Huggett (Virgin, 9/94R, 3/95R). The slow movement, like that of K211, is pushed along with no apparent affection: rhythms are stiff, phrases just happen, and the orchestra chugs rather than floats. Creative thinking here seems to amount to a dreadful added chromatic descant from the fortepiano continuo (at the cadence from 2'48" – there’s a similar ploy in the Andante of K211 at 1'55").
We’ve all heard perfumed, self-regarding performances of the Adagio of K216, most recently from Anne-Sophie Mutter (DG, 10/05). Biondi, swift, straight and unyielding, goes to the opposite extreme and achieves the near-impossible feat of making this Elysian movement utterly unmagical. As to the opening Allegro, what Biondi presumably intends to sound impetuous and exciting comes across as simply frantic, with phrases punched and pummelled and bravura passages scrambled; and an interpretative gimmick like the abrupt slamming on of brakes at the first cadence becomes more irritating each time it recurs. Enough said. I’ve often admired Biondi’s high-octane Bach and Vivaldi. But to me these Mozart concertos evoke nothing so much as the manic caricature portrayed in Amadeus.