Mozart: Violin Concertos, K216 & K218

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Sony Classical
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: Violin Concertos, K216 & K218
WORKS: Works by Mozart
PERFORMER: Ray Chen (violin); Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra/Christoph Eschenbach
CATALOGUE NO: 88765447752

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Violinist Ray Chen gives splendidly alert, lightly-sprung performances of the two Concertos – slightly Romanticised, perhaps, but in the best sense of the word, with an appealing lyrical warmth, and the music strongly characterised throughout. The way Chen attacks the second subject in the opening movement of the G major Concerto, for instance, with its initial repeated notes played with the bow bouncing off the string, gives it an irresistible lilt. He is beautifully accompanied, too, by the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach, all impeccably recorded by Sony’s engineers. Chen confesses to having found it hard to compose his own cadenzas, and if truth be told they’re generally too long and self-indulgent to accord with the unpretentious nature of these youthful pieces.

I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the Violin Sonata, in which Eschenbach accompanies as pianist, but here the slow second movement, in particular, is maddeningly genteel and mannered. The music’s natural flow is hindered throughout by artificial pianissimos and hesitations, as though the players were determined to wring every last ounce of expression out of the piece. Best, then, to regard the Sonata as a bonus. Certainly, the disc is worth acquiring for the exceptionally attractive performances of the two Concertos alone.

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Misha Donat