Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat, K207; Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K216; Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K218

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LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat, K207; Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K216; Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K218
PERFORMER: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Viktoria Mullova (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 470 292-2
By her own admission, it was only when she exchanged metal for gut strings that Viktoria Mullova started to enjoy Mozart. And the relaxed spirit of these performances may surprise those who still think of the Russian-born violinist as an aloof, chilly perfectionist. Mullova’s bow control and intonation remain as flawless as ever. But with the technical perfection goes an eager, spontaneous-sounding response to the teenage Mozart’s exuberance and lyricism. Mullova commands a wider palette of colour (with more liberal and varied use of vibrato) and dynamics than Monica Huggett, in her excellent period-instrument recording (Virgin). And while some may prefer the cool, chaste grace of Huggett’s playing, Mullova often offers more vivid characterisation: in, say, the first-movement development of the G major, where she points the wistful minor-key inflections with poetic touches of timing, dances blithely in the solo-orchestra dialogues and then eases gently into the new C major melody. More than most violinists, Mullova finds playfulness and wit as well as brilliance in Mozart’s passagework (gut strings and the lighter Classical bow an obvious advantage here). And in the slow movements, all taken at supple, mobile tempi, she strikes a fine balance between Classical poise and personal expressiveness: the Adagio of K216, for instance, is tenderly coloured and inflected while retaining its essential pastoral innocence. The finale of the B flat, K207, is a shade restrained for Mozart’s Presto, more elegant than zestful; and I can’t say I warmed to Ottavio Dantone’s over-elaborate, Mozart-meets-JS Bach cadenzas. But if you want these three concertos on period instruments Mullova’s airy, sweet-toned performances, buoyantly partnered by the OAE, should fit the bill nicely. Richard Wigmore