WORKS: Violin Concertos: No. 1 in B flat, K207; No. 2 in D, K211; No. 3 in G, K216; No. 4 in D, K218; No. 5 in A, K219
PERFORMER: Gidon Kremer; Kremerata Baltica/ Gidon Kremer
CATALOGUE NO: 07559 798863 5
There have been some fine recordings of the Mozart violin concertos in recent years, including by James Ehnes (CBC) and by Giuliano Carmignola with Abbado and the Orchestra Mozart (DG). This new version by Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica easily holds its own in such company, though it’s a pity Kremer keeps himself strictly within the bounds of the five concertos, all completed by the time Mozart was 19.
Ehnes offers, in addition, three individual pieces for violin and orchestra – all attractive pieces in their own right (two of them were written as substitute movements for the concertos); while Carmignola and Abbado instead throw in the great Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola. (The classic recording by Grumiaux and Colin Davis, available at bargain-price from Philips, actually manages to find room for all the above repertoire, minus just the self-standing Rondo K373.)
That said, Kremer’s performances are irresistibly alert and inventive, with playing that’s imbued with his personality throughout. The ‘Turkish’ episode of the A major Concerto’s finale, with its stamping rhythms accentuated by the double-basses slapping their strings with upside-down bows, has never sounded more vivid.
There’s an irrepressible lilt to the opening movement’s second subject, too, when the conductor eases the tempo just a little. Kremer’s slow movements plumb greater expressive depths than those of Carmignola and Abbado, and his occasional use of solo strings elsewhere to accompany the more delicate moments is a nice touch. Robert Levin’s specially-written cadenzas are stylish, if a touch unadventurous. Misha Donat
Altogether, an impressive achievement.