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Mozart: Violin Concertos 1-5, Sinfonia Concertante / Kremer

Kremer,Gidon / Mozart / Vpo / Harnoncourt
Release Date: 06/13/2006 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 000649509  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Gidon KremerKim Kashkashian
Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Directed by Klaus Lindemann

2 DVD-VIDEO NTSC
STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: DTS 5.1
A production of UNITEL, Munich

R E V I E W S

Gidon Kremer’s account of Mozart’s five violin concertos and Sinfonia concertante, as Tully Potter points out in the booklet’s notes, represented a sort of historic occasion, marking, with Perlman’s versions from the same period, the first time the orchestra had recorded these works. That occurred in October 1983 (the First Concerto and the Sinfonia), in December 1984 (the Second and Third Concertos), and in January 1987 (the Fourth and Fifth Concertos). Michael Ullman reviewed the release of the Second and Third Concertos on Deutsche Grammophon 415 482 in 9:6,
Read more judging the playing “more pointedly, at times even curtly, phrased” (than that of Grumiaux), while nevertheless convincing. He also noted the rapport between Harnoncourt and Kremer and the bounce and loveliness (as well as the dramatic boldness) of the orchestral playing. John Bauman reviewed the Fourth and Fifth Concertos (Deutsche Grammophon 423 107) briefly in 12:1, noting the “expected virtues and vices of these two rather idiosyncratic performers.” He found their tempos a bit on the quick side, with sudden ritards and clipped accents; and he judged Kremer’s tone “lean, almost steely, but wonderfully secure.” Ultimately, Ullman considered Kremer’s readings as worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Grumiaux’s and Stern’s; Bauman, at least, considered them not “out of step with Mozart’s writing.” In the nearly two decades since these recordings appeared, however, the period-instrument movement has jazzed up Vivaldi, bringing to him a zest that listeners to recordings by the Virtuosi di Roma could hardly have suspected. Kremer’s and Harnoncourt’s tempos might no longer seem so quick to reviewers today, and the Vienna Philharmonic strings might sound downright opulent rather than tart and tangy. Then, too, there’s Kremer’s tone, which Potter describes as “svelte.”

Kremer, of course, appears as the Ichabod Crane of the violin, with long, spindly, though preternaturally strong, fingers. In fact, he looks so stiff in the First Concerto that he could almost be wearing a brace. Yet that’s not the impression the performance itself conveys. At times in that Concerto, Kremer recalls Stern’s mellifluous readings of Haydn and Mozart from the 1940s. And as Potter also mentions, neither soloist nor orchestra went the whole hog: they frequently played with pre-period-instrument warmth, communicating a glowing sense of joy in these works—and a heartfelt melodiousness in their singing slow movements—that should appeal to listeners of all types. Kremer made use of cadenzas that sounded lyrical in the slow movements and often appropriately thematic in the outer ones. The Second Concerto enshrines rapt, ecstatic lyricism in its slow movement. The filmed presentation of the finale suffers slightly from an occasional lack of coordination of its visual and auditory images. The camera generally focuses on Kremer and occasionally on Harnoncourt and the strings throughout these recordings; but in the Third Concerto, brief glimpses of the oboe “soloists” appear with increasing frequency, mostly during their dialogues with the violinist in the first movement. Anyone who considers Kremer’s sound wiry should listen to this Concerto’s slow movement, in which he reveals the full richness of his tone. The finale brings slight ritards but generally agile, athletic playing, as well as the introduction of a surprisingly dramatic element in the Rondo’s central episode, which Kremer sets off with modest improvisation and a striking change of tempo. In the Fourth Concerto, recorded later, Kremer indulges in some of the deep knee bends that seem so characteristic of his performing manner. The first movement sounds brisk, yet somehow hardly light. The slow movement is beset by lack of synchronization of the visual and auditory images. In the finale, Kremer takes the second melody more slowly than might have been expected and remains on the string, creating a notably gracious and elegant transition. And he doesn’t make the movement’s ending so puzzlingly brusque as so many do but more deliberate, yet with tongue firmly in cheek. In the Fifth Concerto, Kremer inserts a short cadenza before the main body of the first movement’s allegro aperto, and here, as in the Third Concerto, he plays some of the appoggiaturas unaccented. So, you might be tempted to wonder, has he heeded period-practice admonitions or not? The slow movement brings an especially pointed contrast between the visual angularity of his playing and the warm suppleness of his sound. At one point, upon a strong orchestral attack, the camera focuses suddenly—and somewhat jarringly—on the concertmaster, one of few jarring visual moments.

In the Sinfonia concertante, Kim Kashkashian provides both a visual and musical foil to Kremer. With her large viola (especially for her size), she matches Kremer in lyricism, though not in sharpness of focus. In fact, her softer sound provides a luxurious pad in which Kremer’s edgier brilliance can rest. As in the slow movement, she produces this kind of sound with a bow dropped from a rather high right wrist (while Kremer plays with a steelier grip that may communicate some of the weight and strength of his shoulder almost directly to the string). The contrast between these two manners of tone production appears in a particularly pointed way in the finale’s “snappy” theme.

The soloists generally have the printed music in front of them and even turn pages when on camera, though they never give the impression of reading. With their solid orchestral playing, the generally modest and inconspicuous camerawork, and, given the circumstances, the admirable recorded sound, these joyous and penetrating performances, which may seem tamer today than they did when they first appeared, certainly continue to occupy, as Ullman suggested, the same general territory as do Grumiaux’s and Stern’s. But they enjoy the additional advantage of a visual, as well as an auditory, image, even if the twain occasionally don’t meet. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin no 1 in B flat major, K 207 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
2.
Concerto for Violin no 2 in D major, K 211 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
3.
Concerto for Violin no 3 in G major, K 216 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
4.
Concerto for Violin no 4 in D major, K 218 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775 
5.
Concerto for Violin no 5 in A major, K 219 "Turkish" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Gidon Kremer (Violin)
Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1775 
6.
Sinfonia concertante for Violin and Viola in E flat major, K 364 (320d) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Gidon Kremer (Violin), Kim Kashkashian (Viola)
Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1779; Salzburg, Austria 

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