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Beethoven, Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos / Mullova, Et Al


Release Date: 08/12/2003 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 473872   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Felix MendelssohnLudwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Viktoria Mullova
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Fresh, animated, thought-provoking - a revealing slant on two masterpieces

Interesting this, on a number of counts. Viktoria Mullova brings quite different qualities to bear on both works, chaste and unruffled in Beethoven, more demonstrably romantic in Mendelssohn, her vibrato marginally more intense and with subtly negotiated slides. Sir John Eliot Gardiner is an attentive collaborator who in Beethoven's first movement points up contrasts between a flowing legato and the forceful stamping of the timpani-inspired main idea, and lends added animation to various scale-like ascending passages.

Ottavio Dantone provides flamboyant cadenzas, and the sum effect is of a considered, breathing encounter between the
Read more epic and the intimate, the full tutti tower blocks spasmodically dominating an otherwise serene landscape.

In Mendelssohn's Concerto much thought has gone into fashioning the finale, taken at a leisurely tempo and with the orchestra audibly appropriating and distributing elements of the soloist's opening phrase. Few performances make such a gripping feature of the movement's dialogue element and Mullova again bows a bright, mercurial solo line. Gardiner takes Mendelssohn at his word in stressing the first movement's Allegro molto appassianato, not by pushing the tempo (which he never does) but by applying precisely the right degree of weight and pressure to key tutti - much aided, incidentally, by the lowered pitch. The booklet warns us of 'alternative or original readings in [the] interpretations of both works', early scores having been consulted as guidance. Among these 'alternative' readings are a brief transposition upwards in the first movement of the Beethoven (1215"), then downwards in the first movement of the Mendelssohn (139"), and some substantially altered notation at the close, ie at 628", of Mendelssohn's second movement. Nothing too drastic but interesting if you think you know what's coming. I'm not entirely sure whether Mullova's very occasional tendency to sidestep the centre of the note is intentional. I'm thinking of T1 into Beethoven's first movement and 255" into Mendelssohn's first, minuscule deviations, but with playing that is in other respects so pristine, momentarily distracting.

Credible digital rivalry centres, in the first instance, on Joshua Bell with Sir Roger Norrington, similarly chaste and transparent (the Mendelssohn especially, albeit with a newly fashioned cadenza of Bell's own devising) but not on period instruments. I still derive much pleasure from Bell's Mendelssohn, what with Norrington's discreet conducting and the textural beauty of the Camerata Salzburg's playing (the flutes especially). The finale in particular is a real joy. Bell's Beethoven is marginally warmer than Mullova's, and his own first-movement cadenza is more playful and ingenious than Dantone's. I love his meaningful asides, including a brief hint at the Moonlight Sonata.

Two additional CDs couple Beethoven's Concerto and Romances together, Thomas Zehetmair with the period-instrument Orchestra of the 18th Century under Frans Brüggen being more forceful and spontaneous than the stylised (but still very enjoyable) Gidon Kremer with the COE under Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Both use cadenzas with timpani based around Beethoven's own.

Zehetmair is my current digital first choice for the Beethoven, Bell with Norrington for the Mendelssohn, though Gardiner's masterful account of the orchestral score is well worth hearing. Mullova was sweeter and fuller-toned in her earlier take on the Mendelssohn under a comparatively bland Sir Neville Marriner, but her current, slimmer self (violinistically speaking, of course!) marks an interesting curve of development that her many fans could profitably investigate.

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone [9/2003]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Viktoria Mullova (Violin)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/2002 
Venue:  The Colosseum, Watford, London, England 
Length: 27 Minutes 11 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Viktoria Mullova (Violin)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/2002 
Venue:  The Colosseum, Watford, London, England 
Length: 40 Minutes 52 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Violin Concerto In D, Op.61: 1. Allegro ma non troppo
Violin Concerto In D, Op.61: 2. Larghetto -
Violin Concerto In D, Op.61: 3. Rondo (Allegro)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64: 1. Allegro molto appassionato
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64: 2. Andante
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64: 3. Allegro non troppo - Allegro molto vivace

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