Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Concertos: Nos. 1?5. Adagio in E,
Rondos: in B?,
James Ehnes (vn), cond; Mozart Anniversary O
CBC SMCD 5238 (2 CDs: 143:11)
Canadian violinist James Ehnes happens to be 220 years younger to the day than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the present set of concertos was conceived and executed to commemorate the former?s 30th
birthday anniversary and the latter?s 250th in January of 2006. A good thing indeed.
The sound Ehnes draws from his 1715 Strad is more sweet than robust?doubtless, at least in part, a conscious choice motivated by the nature of the music itself and by considerations of balance with the pleasingly diminutive orchestra, though it maybe accentuated a bit by the slightly brightish sonic engineering. Still, the results are chocolate to the ear?well-judged tempos, stylish phrasing and articulation, balances always well calculated. As satisfying as all these renditions are, I find No. 5 a bit special: the deliberately paced outer sections in the ?Turkish? finale nicely frame a truly exhilarating central minor-mode episode, and Ehnes?s cadenzas?always well proportioned and idiomatic?get a bit more adventurous with the double stops and upper-register writing, to this listener?s even greater pleasure.
Ehnes also provides his own highly literate annotations; one might be tempted to castigate him for going a bit light on the music itself, but the simple and sad fact is that not much is known about the background of these pieces, nearly all penned while the composer was still in his teens. Ehnes is particularly thorough when it comes to ornamentation and the aforementioned cadenzas; and the booklet also provides individual biographies for every member of the handpicked orchestra?the string complement is 6-5-4-4-2, plus pairs of horns and oboes (the latter replaced by flutes in a couple of movements).
It won?t come as news that the field of ?competition? for this release is a crowded one; or that no single reviewer can hope to comment usefully on more than a small portion of it. In the present case, the comparisons at hand included the predictably bigger-sounding Zukerman/St. Paul and Francescatti/Walter; both have their merits, but neither, in the end, strikes me as substantially or even slightly preferable to the present readings. Budget-conscious basic collectors might turn to Grumiaux, a generally well-regarded Mozartean, on Philips; or to Naxos?s more-or-less house violinist Takako Nishizaki, whose way with Mozart isn?t known to me, but who has impressed me favorably in a couple of Beethoven sonatas. But otherwise, the effect of Ehnes?s unusually small orchestra (not to belittle his violin-playing, of course) is so satisfying as to be well worth hearing even for listeners who already own other recordings that they like perfectly well. Recommended.
FANFARE: James Carson
Works on This Recording
Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat major, K. 207: I. Allegro moderato
Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat major, K. 207: II. Adagio
Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat major, K. 207: III. Presto
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 211: I. Allegro moderato
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 211: II. Andante
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, K. 211: III. Rondeau: Allegro
Adagio in E major, K. 261
Rondo in B flat major, K. 269: Allegro
Rondo in C major, K. 373: Allegretto grazioso
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216: I. Allegro
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216: II. Adagio
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216: III. Rondeau: Allegro
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K. 218: I. Allegro
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K. 218: II. Andante cantabile
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K. 218: III. Rondeau: Andante grazioso
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, "Turkish": I. Allegro aperto
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, "Turkish": II. Adagio
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, "Turkish": III. Rondeau: Tempo di Menuetto
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