Experiencing the Australian Chamber Orchestra and their leader Richard Tognetti in concert has been described in The Times as 'like taking a swig of a vitamin drink'. This is the first of two discs on BIS of Mozart's violin concertos. Contributing to this is the fact that the strings (both soloist and orchestra) play on gut strings, while the wind players perform on replicas of instruments from Mozart's time.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra and its enterprising leader, violinist Richard Tognetti, wade with these popular Mozart works into a field with plenty of competition, and the results, as usual with this popular group, range from good to superb. The performances are generally oriented toward historical practice; the string players use gut strings, tuned slightly below modern concert pitch, and the oboes and horns are historically appropriate instruments. In general matters of attack and phrasing, the players do not diverge too far from modern practice, and Tognetti, in his own notes (in English, German, and French), points out that even if treatises of the period laid down certain procedures in regard to these matters, the notoriously capricious Mozart might well have done something completely different.
Two rarely recorded Haydn violin concertos frame Rachel Podger’s performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat on this disc. Both concertos have only string accompaniment, here provided by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and a discreet harpsichord (the player’s name unaccountably omitted from the list of the orchestra personnel in the accompanying booklet). Rachel Podger has chosen to play both concertos on her own Pesarinius violin (1739) that she feels is most suited to the style of these works and few would disagree with her choice. Her agile and spirited playing in the outer movements is complemented by her pure cantilena in the slow movements. As is to be expected, both works are full of baroque idioms and, while neither presents Haydn at his most inventive, they make an enjoyable pairing.
Some say it's violinist Andrew Manze's tone that makes him distinctive, that there's a sweetness to his non-vibrato swells and a strength to his flexible bowing that make his playing so attractive. Some say it's Manze's phrasing that makes him distinctive, that there's a lyrical quality to his line and a molded quality to his dynamics that make his playing so appealing. Some say it's Manze's interpretation that makes him so distinctive, that there's a combination of fantasy, intensity, and effortless virtuosity that make his performances so persuasive. Some say it's all these things at once and this 2006 disc of the last three of Mozart's five violin concertos is the proof.
This CD, recorded in the early 1960-ies is a real treasure. Beside Menuhin's superb performance, it has something really unique - Barshai's Viola playing! His rare recording truly makes this CD one of the best releases of Mozart's music, especially Symphonia Concertante.
Following his first solo concertos disc of Mendelssohn and Schumann, French violinist Renaud Capuçon chose a disc of Mozart's first and third concertos, as well as his imposing Sinfonia Concertante, with outstanding young violist Antoine Tamestit. All three works feature the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by fellow Frenchman and Mozart expert Louis Langrée. Says Capuçon of Langrée (who has directed the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York since 2002): "Working with Louis Langrée is a particular privilege, his Mozart has honesty, purity and joie de vivre…grace, in fact." And of the SCO: "The players' finesse of articulation and their colors are drawn from chamber music…This simplicity of approach is essential for me." This intimate reading offers new insights into these familiar works, particularly during the grief-stricken slow movement of the Sinfonia Concertante, which finds all three musicians digging deep into the emotional core of the music.