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Friday, May 29, 2009

Stunning Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in B-flat major, K. 207 [20:07]

Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216 [22:29]

Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major for violin, viola and orchestra, K. 364 [29:56]

Renaud Capuçon (violin)

Antoine Tamesitt (viola)

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Louis Langrée

Recorded 17-20 September 2007 at the Perth Concert Hall, Scotland


VIRGIN CLASSICS 502112 [72:56]

Although Mozart was himself a fine violinist, his five violin concertos, dashed off in a record eight month span in 1775, were most likely written for Antonio Brunetti, a virtuoso in the court orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg. Given that Mozart detested both men; it is no wonder that he never composed another violin concerto thereafter. They are of course perfectly crafted and tuneful and even poignant in the slow movements, but they do not hold a candle to the magnificent body of concertos for the piano that Mozart composed throughout his life for his own able use.

The Sinfonia Concertante, a form that Mozart discovered during his 1777 visit to Mannheim is quite the horse of a different color. Mozart composed three such works (if you count the Concerto for Flute and Harp which was written for a father-daughter pair of wealthy patrons). The example for violin and viola is without question one of his finest works, a masterpiece that stands with the late symphonies and piano concertos and the stunning Clarinet Quintet in its utter perfection of construction and its magnificent exploitation of the coloristic possibilities of the two solo instruments.

Virgin Classics continue to capitalize on the remarkable talents of the Brothers Capuçon whose remarkable musicianship has yet to fail in some two dozen recordings thus far. Violinist Renaud is featured here in these fine performances of the first and third violin concerti. Capuçon is noteworthy for being unafraid to be original. His tone, while always luminous and full throated, is not generically sweet like we so often hear on cookie cutter recordings of the standard repertoire. Indeed he is not afraid to risk a little aggression from time to time, and that tendency makes these performances of rather standard-fare concertos most refreshing.

It is however in the Sinfornia Concertante¸ joined by an artistic and emotional equal in the person of Antoine Tamesitt that the music springs to life. Like in the recent recording with brother Gautier of the Brahms Double Concerto (Virgin Classics 95147 see my review), the performers have a unity of purpose that is striking. Each musical gesture is of one accord, as best noted by some stunning octave work. The middle movement is as gorgeous as Michelangelo’s David, marked by breathtaking phrasing and a seamless legato. Round it all off with a joyous presto that brings you to the edge of your chair and you have one of the outstanding recordings of the year.

Hats off to youth and a brilliant new generation of performers. Classical music is a dying art form? Mmmm, I don’t think so.

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