Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2; Violin Concerto No. 3; Violin Concerto No. 4; Violin Concerto No. 5; Adagio, K261; Rondos, K269 & K373

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: CBC
ALBUM TITLE: Orchestral Choice
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2; Violin Concerto No. 3; Violin Concerto No. 4; Violin Concerto No. 5; Adagio, K261; Rondos, K269 & K373
PERFORMER: Mozart Anniversary Orchestra/James Ehnes (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: SMCD 5238-2
The Canadian violinist James Ehnes cites as the motivation behind this project the fact that his 30th birthday fell on the same day as Mozart’s 250th, but no such excuse was needed for what is by any standards a superb series of performances. Mozart himself was a reluctant but accomplished violinist, and when on one occasion he played his G major Concerto K216 he proudly told his father, ‘It flowed like oil! Everyone praised my beautiful, pure tone.’ Much the same could be said of Ehnes, whose playing is warm and expressive without a hint of preciousness, and effortlessly musical throughout. His ensemble is essentially a pick-up band containing some of his friends and colleagues from various Canadian and American orchestras, but the players sound as though they have been making music together for years.

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I wouldn’t want to be without the recordings of this repertoire by Arthur Grumiaux and Colin Davis with the LSO, which still sound remarkably well after forty years, and have the advantage of including the great Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola. In the finale of the G major Concerto and the earlier of the two in D major, Grumiaux and Davis are livelier than the slightly laid-back Ehnes, but in all other respects this new recording strikes me as superior. And in the famous ‘stamping’ episode of the A major Concerto’s finale you can hear – as you can’t on the Philips recording – the sound of the cellos and basses slapping their instruments with the wood of the bow.

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Misha Donat