Mozart: Sinfonia concertante in E flat, K364; Concertone in C, K190

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WORKS: Sinfonia concertante in E flat, K364; Concertone in C, K190
PERFORMER: Isabelle van Keulen (violin, viola)Prague CO
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6443-2
Both the early ‘Concertone’ for two violins and the more famous – and much greater – work for violin and viola, the Sinfonia concertante, are essentially dialogues, in which two performers react to each other’s performance. Far from being a liability, a contrast of personalities is a positive advantage, which is why this recording, in which Isabelle van Keulen has double-tracked the two parts, runs so much counter to the spirit of the music. She is, in any case, a rather more accomplished violinist than viola player; but it is unlikely that even a more charismatic musician could breathe sufficient life into these pieces without a partner. The central development in the opening movement of K364, with its phrases tossed back and forth between the soloists, is just one of the many moments that sound stiff and lifeless here; and the slow movement – one of Mozart’s great tragic utterances – is notably lacking in depth of tone and expressive intensity. With the exception of the opening page of the finale, where van Keulen’s viola alter ego races off at the wrong tempo, the technical trickery has been done with considerable skill; but it is hard not to feel that this was an ill-judged venture. Misha Donat