Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Haydn,Mozart
WORKS: Serenade in D, K239 (Serenata notturna); Adagio in E, K261; Romance No. 1 for Violin; Romance No. 2 for Violin; Violin Concerto in G, Hob. VIIa:4
PERFORMER: Franz Liszt CO/Isaac Stern (violin)
To the many reasons to admire Isaac Stern we may add the courage to take on early-music groups in what is surely not his own optimum repertoire. This hour of music, delivered not quite impeccably but with gusto, begins with Mozart’s much-loved Serenata notturna. My reservation is that the meaty string orchestra gives too emphatic downbeats; there is just enough redeeming charm in the solos. But if one can easily get more delicate performances of this concertante Serenade, the other Mozart pieces, detached from whole concertos, are relatively neglected. The exquisite Adagio in E is shaped with sweet, but unexaggerated Romanticism, and the crisp playing in the bright C major Rondo is equally effective. The Beethoven Romances are played with more idiomatic warmth. Although Stern is steely at times, his clarity and exactness of intonation and slight vibrato balance the gentle sentiment of the music. The main offering is the earliest music, but Haydn’s Concerto is hardly ‘early’ (he composed it in his late thirties); it hovers fascinatingly on the cusp between Baroque solidity and the idiosyncratic imagination which soon led to some of his finest symphonies. Its raw energy and occasional tenderness would be better without the rather long cadenzas. Julian Rushton