Mozart: Sinfonia concertante, K 364; Violin Concerto No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Mutter Mozart
WORKS: Sinfonia concertante, K 364; Violin Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin), Yuri Bashmet (viola); LPO
CATALOGUE NO: 474 2152
The first tutti of the Second Concerto gives a good pointer to the qualities of this set: there’s smoothness of phrasing, and a pretty much omnipresent vibrato, with a bright and alert tempo. Mutter’s tone is unfailingly beautiful, though it’s the sort of beauty that would better suit Korngold – heavily laden with vibrato, with notes on the G string so rich that they need to carry a calorie count (and the rounded recording emphasises that sweetness). In the andante, she invests the drooping semitone figure with a heavy portamento that sounds grotesque, and that’s a characteristic of her slow movements in general: each note has so much expression that the overall line struggles to emerge. The contrast with the purity of Grumiaux or Ferras – hardly in the vanguard of authenticity – is telling.

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More positively, the sheer accuracy of Mutter’s playing is astonishing, with hardly an out-of-tune note, even in the fastest passage-work. And though some of her rubato catches the orchestra on the hop, she generally doesn’t allow tempos to sag in the outer movements. The finale of the Fifth Concerto is especially well-paced, though I prefer the roughness that Zehetmair brings to the Turkish interlude. In the Sinfonia Concertante, Bashmet’s unpredictable spontaneity jolts Mutter out of her more calculated emotionalism, though the slow movement tends to get bogged down. Again, Grumiaux has a more searching, classical approach. Martin Cotton