ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2; Violin Concerto No. 3
PERFORMER: Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 344 7062
Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante have been noted for their sparkling performances of Italian Baroque music, particularly Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Here, they bring to Mozart’s first three violin concertos a breezy, Italianate air, aptly galant and lyrical, and a real sense of chamber music-making thanks to Biondi’s taut direction from the violin.
The clarity of Mozart’s ensemble writing highlights some intonation problems for this period ensemble and Biondi occasionally struggles with the more technically demanding solo passages, barely able to keep up with himself in the breathless D major Rondeau, and under pressure his sound becomes thin and wiry. But to their credit, there is some capricious and pithy playing and Biondi highlights many details to delightful effect, bringing out some Turkish-inspired touches, notably in the G major Rondo, the romping brio of K207’s finale and the dramatic sforzati chords that punctuate all three works. Biondi takes his cue from Italian opera in the slow movements where the ensemble plays with delightful lyricism and sweetness without ever becoming saccharine. These idiosyncratic performances may not appeal to all tastes but they certainly make a refreshing change from the romantic suavity of some Mozart interpretations.
Of the many recordings of these concertos, Arthur Grumiaux’s with the LSO remains a classic: the Belgian violinist’s impeccable technique, elegant expressivity and intuitive understanding of Mozart transcends all issues of fashion and style. Kate Bolton