Isabelle Faust performs Mozart’s Violin Concertos

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Violin Concertos, K 207, 211, 216, 218 & 219; Rondeaux, K 269 & 373; Adagio, K 261
PERFORMER: Isabelle Faust (violin); Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 902230-31

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Mozart’s violin concertos, composed when he was in his teens, belong among the miracles of his youth. He was himself an accomplished, if reluctant, violinist; he told his father on one occasion when he played one of his own concertos that ‘it flowed like oil! Everyone praised my beautiful, pure tone.’ Much the same could be said of Isabelle Faust’s remarkably smooth and sweet-toned playing. Some of the slow movements here are as beautiful as could be imagined: the Adagio of the G major Concerto K216, for instance, with muted orchestral strings and the soft sound of flutes replacing the oboes (the Salzburg players Mozart had at his disposal could no doubt double on either instrument); or the similarly scored E major Adagio K261, written as a substitute slow movement for the A major Concerto.

The otherwise fine recording finds Faust slightly recessed, and there are times when you almost have to strain to hear her. A moment such as the soloist’s entry with a soaring new tune near the start of the A major Concerto should convey more assertive swagger. But it’s a small point, and the ‘Turkish’ episode in that concerto’s finale is splendidly done, its snarling crescendos well handled by Giovanni Antonini and Il Giardino Armonico, and the percussive bow-slapping of the double basses adding to the flavour. The cadenzas by Andreas Staier are stylish and inventive.

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Misha Donat