Violin Concertos Nos 1-5
Baiba Skride (violin); Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Eivind Aadland
Orfeo C997201 128:59 mins (2 discs)
Latvian violinist Baiba Skride delivers beautifully nuanced accounts of these works. Her sweet-toned performances of the first two concertos balance grace, elegance and wit in the outer movements with seductively expressive operatic lyricism in the slow movements. Skride’s own cadenzas work really well, not only being stylistically attuned to Mozart’s idiom but also never outstaying their welcome.
Her approach becomes bolder and more dramatic in the Third, Fourth and Fifth Concertos, a reflection perhaps of Mozart’s growing mastery of the genre. The finales are a particular delight, Skride responding with flexibility and spontaneity to their quicksilver changes of mood and tempo and to their frequent allusions to folk music. A highlight of the cycle is undoubtedly the foot-tapping Turkish music episode in the middle of the finale of the Fifth Concerto which finds both soloist and orchestra in exhilarating form.
The Swedish Chamber Orchestra under the incisive direction of Eivind Aadland is a highly responsive partner. There’s some particularly lovely interplay between solo violin and oboe in the first movement of the Third, and Aadland secures exactly the right misty orchestral colouring for the magical textures that open the ensuing Adagio.
All in all, this looks like a winning combination for those wanting modern instrument performances of these works. The major snag, however, is the recording of the orchestra which is nothing like as vivid as that of the soloist. Furthermore, perhaps emphasised by the hall’s acoustics, it gives undue weight to the bass line thereby introducing a heaviness not always appropriate to the music.