Mozart Violin Concertos Nos 1, 2 & 3
LSO/Nikolaj Znaider (violin)
LSO Live LSO0804 (hybrid CD/SACD) 61:39 mins
‘In the evening during dinner I played the Strassburger concerto’, Mozart wrote to his father in October 1777. ‘It flowed like oil! Everyone praised my beautiful, pure tone.’ Mozart was a fine violinist, though he was clearly reluctant to follow in Leopold’s footsteps: his five violin concertos were all composed when he was still in his teens, after which he concentrated his concerto activities on the piano. The ‘Strassburger’ concerto he referred to is probably the G major K216, whose finale introduces a popular dance tune, with tongue firmly in cheek. Its slow movement has the orchestral strings muted, and the oboes replaced with flutes, to magical effect.
Nikolaj Znaider seems to have taken Mozart’s description of his own silky tone to heart, and his new recording of the first three concertos with the LSO (the remaining two were issued last year) is notable for the purity of his sound. These are old-school performances, and none the worse for that, but they sometimes skirt dangerously close to the ‘Dresden china’ approach to Mozart. It’s true that the solo parts in these pieces contain precious few dynamic markings, but listening to Znaider there were times when I wished he would take the kid gloves off and produce something more forthright. There’s a general lack of sparkle, too, in the presto finale of the First Concerto, which really needs to be lighter on its toes. In the end, despite some fine playing, Znaider’s performances are a little short on personality.