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Mozart: Violin Concertos, Etc / Kavakos, Camerata Salzburg


Release Date: 10/31/2006 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 84241   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leonidas Kavakos
Conductor:  Leonidas Kavakos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Salzburg
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 27 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



MOZART Violin Concertos: No. 1 in B?; No. 2 in D; No. 5 in A; No. 3 in G; No. 4 in D. Symphony No. 39 in E? Leonidas Kavakos (vn), cond; Camerata Salzburg SONY 84241 (2 CDs: 147:25) Live: Athens 2/14–17/2006


A critic several generations ago described Szymon Goldberg’s approach to Mozart as “walking on eggs,” a phrase he used to single out that violinist’s performances for special mention in the history of violin recordings. Since Mozart’s concertos don’t represent the violinist taming tempestuous orchestral Read more forces in heroic battles, as does, for example, Tchaikovsky’s concerto or Bruch’s First, a more self-effacing reading might have seemed unusually stylish and perceptive—in fact, a welcome alternative to romanticized versions on steroids. By contrast to Goldberg’s, Isaac Stern’s way with Mozart might be described as robust, Arthur Grumiaux’s as elegant, Shlomo Mintz’s as searching, and Maxim Vengerov’s as doting; but Leonidas Kavakos’s, responding, most likely, to the recent Mozart celebrations as well as highlighting his relationship with the Camerata Salzburg, seems a bit harder to characterize. The engineers haven’t come so close to their soloist as to violate these concertos’ chamber ambiance; and Kavakos appears, as a result, consistently in the middle of things rather than at their forefront. Still, he plays the First Concerto with energy restrained by introspection, notably in the outer movements; correspondingly, his version of the finale is playful rather than headlong. His tone floats as though buoyed by helium, as in the Adagio, which he limns with special sensitivity. The orchestral players, providing sharply etched yet never edgy support, wrap the solo in warm sonorities, rounded yet firmly shaped rather than crunchy. Kavakos’s own tone sounds slender on the 1692 Falmouth Stradivari, with a silvery purity that’s not quite brilliant and with a juicy sweetness that never cloys. The violinist and his ensemble take their time to play the Second Concerto’s Allegro moderato with relaxed geniality, providing ample tolerance both for the movement’s legato passages and for their brief staccato punctuations. Kavakos spreads a mysterious, gossamer veil over the slow movement and dances through the Rondeau with poignant elegance. The Fifth Concerto, Heifetz’s favorite, can be taken as a dashing showpiece, if not an outrightly virtuosic one. Kavakos, from the opening tutti, emphasizes the first movement’s piquancy, often ceding primacy to the orchestra to achieve tantalizing effects. His own cadenza to that movement, with its sense of slightly wistful improvisation (as in his cadenzas throughout), comes as a welcome relief after the heavy-handedly virtuosic ones that held violinists’ interest for so long. Throughout the slow movement, the pointed orchestral figurations command as much attention as does the soloist’s lyricism; the finale is jaunty rather than muscular, its Janissary interlude, more carnivalesque than warlike.


The second disc begins with the Third and Fourth Violin Concertos. In the Third, the orchestral strings and the brightly pungent oboes endow the accompanying figures with a crispness that lifts them far above the routine that their repeated shapes on the printed page might suggest. Kavakos himself plays energetically, matching the orchestra’s exuberance in the passagework and here and there adding a grace that, as in Baroque performance, lends a snap to the melody’s forward momentum. In the Adagio, the orchestral figuration, while perhaps not so pointed as in the corresponding movement of the Fifth Concerto, still keeps the violin line in touch with specific features of the earth below rather than simply providing undifferentiated terrain over which it can float disembodied. The finale benefits from Kavakos’s lighter approach in both his roles: violinist and conductor. Still, the ensemble emerges punching from its corner in the fanfare opening the Fourth Concerto, and it maintains its pugilistic posture throughout the movement, though Kavakos remains as nuanced as ever throughout. While his pushes and pulls on the basic tempo seem more like subtle rhythmic graces than like actual rubatos, his playing nevertheless suggests heady freedom, here as throughout—enough so, in fact, to make a listener feel giddy. Kavakos plays the Andante cantabile without a single smarmy throb, yet renders it richly expressive, especially at the end, at which he negotiates the often lauded walk up and down the scale as though it were the road not taken. In an interview, super-virtuoso Ruggiero Ricci cited this Concerto’s finale, with its cross-string bowings, as the most difficult of all violin passages. Kavakos takes it and the movement’s 16th-note passagework in general in stride, with an easy mastery that spotlights the ingratiating facility of Mozart’s writing for the instrument—at least its sound, if not its execution—while the orchestra keeps the steam power plant stoked.


If Leonidas Kavakos’s readings of Mozart’s violin concertos, in which he doubled as conductor, make readers wonder what he’s like as a non-soloist conductor, his version of Mozart’s titanic Symphony No. 39 provides an answer, albeit a tentative one. Of course, the Symphony came much later in Mozart’s output and exemplifies a different expressive world. Kavakos seems as at home in it, however, and as devoted to jewel-like clarity and nuanced expressivity in this thunderous Symphony as in the concertos. And though there’s Mozartean timbral variety aplenty in the orchestral detail he elicits, his urgent fast movements prefigure temperaments on the horizon—Beethovenian ruggedness and Schubertian grace come to mind. The orchestra responds to his conception with both the requisite weight and an enthusiastic display of nuanced clarity. So, insightful violinist that he may be, there’s more than one arrow in Kavakos’s quiver.


The concertos maintain center stage, however, and whatever versions of Mozart’s violin concertos a specialist might prefer, Kavakos’s belong alongside them as an evergreen alternative that’s individual without mannerism, witty without flippancy, and delicate without weakness. Walking on eggs, indeed! Urgently 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:  Leonidas Kavakos (Violin)
Conductor:  Leonidas Kavakos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Salzburg
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
Venue:  Live  Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece 
Length: 21 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Notes: Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece (02/14/2006 - 02/17/2006) 
2.
Concerto for Violin no 2 in D major, K 211 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leonidas Kavakos (Violin)
Conductor:  Leonidas Kavakos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Salzburg
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
Venue:  Live  Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece 
Length: 21 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Notes: Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece (02/14/2006 - 02/17/2006) 
3.
Concerto for Violin no 5 in A major, K 219 "Turkish" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leonidas Kavakos (Violin)
Conductor:  Leonidas Kavakos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Salzburg
Written: 1775 
Venue:  Live  Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece 
Length: 28 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Notes: Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece (02/14/2006 - 02/17/2006) 
4.
Concerto for Violin no 3 in G major, K 216 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leonidas Kavakos (Violin)
Conductor:  Leonidas Kavakos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Salzburg
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Salzburg, Austria 
Venue:  Live  Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece 
Length: 23 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Notes: Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece (02/14/2006 - 02/17/2006) 
5.
Concerto for Violin no 4 in D major, K 218 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leonidas Kavakos (Violin)
Conductor:  Leonidas Kavakos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Salzburg
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775 
Venue:  Live  Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece 
Length: 22 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Notes: Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece (02/14/2006 - 02/17/2006) 
6.
Symphony no 39 in E flat major, K 543 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Leonidas Kavakos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Camerata Salzburg
Period: Classical 
Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Live  Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece 
Length: 29 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Notes: Megaron Concert Hall, Athens, Greece (02/14/2006 - 02/17/2006) 

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