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Mozart: Violin Concertos, Sonata / Ray Chen, Christoph Eschenbach


Release Date: 02/04/2014 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 88765447752   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ray ChenChristoph Eschenbach
Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



MOZART Violin Concertos Nos. 3 and 4. Violin Sonata in A , K 305 Ray Chen (vn); Christoph Eschenbach (pn, cond); Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival O SONY 88765447752 (66:59)


Ray Chen, a competition winner who’s also a musician, has assembled a program of three works by the 19-year-old Mozart for his recording with Christoph Eschenbach and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra. He plays the first movement of the composer’s Third Violin Read more Concerto with a modern violinist’s slashing articulation, digging into the G-string with an incisive bite. He may not create the young Anne-Sophie Mutter’s impression of transcendental purity, but he’s less earthy than Isaac Stern and less edgy than Zino Francescatti, who both made insightful recordings of the concerto. He wrote his own cadenza, and though it may not sound as though Mozart himself improvised it, it’s as idiomatic as the famous one by Sam Franko and more natural, perhaps, than the more tortuous one by Eugène Ysaÿe. It seems longer than both (maybe that’s why it claims that it took him a long time to compose). In the slow movement, he may play with stronger accentuation than the music might take on if it flowed by itself, but he’s still beguilingly liquid, with nuances that seem both well tailored to the familiar music and yet fresh and original. Still, at pivotal moments he holds back the tempo in a way that some may find mannered. At other moments, the tone he draws from the 1702 Stradivari he plays and Eschenbach’s hushed accompaniment seem as unsullied as unfiltered sunshine; and he’s composed another long cadenza for the movement. He and Eschenbach play the finale with bustling vigor, spicing the middle section piquantly; and Chen adds another of his own cadenzas, this one shorter. The engineers have placed him just to the fore within the orchestral web.


Ruggiero Ricci, a specialist in Paganini’s music, considered the last movement of Mozart’s Fourth Concerto, with its repeated rhythmic string crossings, the most difficult music to bring off (so much for the notes’ speculation that Paganini might have smiled indulgently at this music). In the first movement’s martial opening motive, Chen sounds clean and elegant, although he accentuates the following passages, and the second musical idea, sharply. Still, his tone sounds as clear as spring water, and who can say how Mozart himself sounded in these passages? Like all the other movements, this one sports one of Chen’s cadenzas. The slow movement, arguably even more sweetly lyrical than the one in the Third Concerto, sounds almost haunting in Chen’s reading, rich and at times throbbing as it is in the lower registers and silvery in the upper ones. He dispatches the finale’s string crossings with not only obvious control but infectious zest as well, and plays the drones with thumping earthiness. Some listeners may be relieved to bid farewell to his cadenzas, the last of which occurs in this movement.


Chen turns to the Violin Sonata in A Major, K 305, to bring the program to a conclusion. Chen plays with a lightweight tone in this work’s opening, and in general he sounds even more determined in this work than in the concertos to play with stylish delicacy, but his approach isn’t in the least precious nor does he mince his musical words. If he doesn’t sound like a period instrumentalist, he doesn’t sound like a heavy-handed revenant from earlier violinistic ages, either, but a sort of hybrid, combining chaste beauty of tone with musical intelligence in the first movement and bringing the same characteristics to the performances of the second, with its variations. In some ways, Eschenbach shares Chen’s approach to this work, lean without being scrawny and thoughtful without being intellectual.


For those who insist on a Mozart shorn of all mannerism, this release may not be perfectly be satisfactory (although it comes close in the sonata), but those who have rejoiced in Chen’s earlier recordings should find it at least worthy of many careful listenings. Recommended.


FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin no 3 in G major, K 216 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ray Chen (Violin)
Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
2.
Concerto for Violin no 4 in D major, K 218 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ray Chen (Violin)
Conductor:  Christoph Eschenbach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775 
3.
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, K 305 (293d) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Christoph Eschenbach (Piano), Ray Chen (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1778; Mannheim, Germany 

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