Mozart: Violin Concertos Nos 2 & 4; Sinfonia Concertante

WORKS: Violin Concertos Nos 2 & 4; Sinfonia Concertante
PERFORMER: Maxim Vengerov (violin, dir), Lawrence Power (viola); UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra
CATALOGUE NO: 378 3742
In preparation for his first all- Mozart recording, Vengerov immersed himself in the composer’s early operas in an attempt to make the melodic lines ‘sing’ more effectively, and there’s no doubting the beauty and refinement of his playing, particularly in the slow movements. But Vengerov takes an altogether serious view of the two D major violin concertos, and it’s possible to feel that these youthful pieces need a lighter touch. That’s especially true of the rondo finale of K218, whose Allegro sections lack a sense of pure enjoyment. More weighty is the Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, K364, and Vengerov’s approach is well suited to the imposing character of its Allegro maestoso first movement. I’m not so sure, though, about his treatment of the opening bars, where Mozart gives a separate dynamic marking to each of the full-blooded chords: sfp for the first two, and forte for the remainder. Vengerov interprets the latter as an explosive fortissimo, and also alters Mozart’s notation into a sharper doubledotted rhythm that detracts from the solemnity of this moment. Together with that of the Jeunehomme Piano Concerto, K271, the concluding rondo is Mozart’s only concerto finale to carry a ‘presto’ tempomarking, and perhaps it could do with a greater sense of breathless urgency than Vengerov brings to it. These performances, then, have much to offer – and they’re greatly helped by the stylish contribution of the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra – but the classic 1960s versions by Arthur Grumiaux and Colin Davis have more of a spring in their step. Misha Donat