Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pleasant Mozart from Bologna


The new Ensemble Respighi two-disc set of Mozart Violin Concertos from Concerto Classics, with violinist Domenico Nordico, provides new look at these five popular concertos in bright, fresh live recordings. This isn't profound music, but I think it was an opportunity for the composer, then in his late teens, to make a leap forward. Mozart was working on his operas La finta giardiniera in 1774 and Il re pastore in 1775, but the inherently dramatic concerto form in these works helped him work through certain structures and scenarios that would serve him in good stead in the next decades. Just how far he was to go is evident in the bonus work in this album: the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola of 1779, which is miles above the solo concertos, and written just ahead of his ground-breaking opera Idomeneo.

These are pleasant but hardly world-class performances, as became clear when I recently listened to the 3rd and 5th Violin Concertos with Henryk Szeryng and the New Philharmonia Orchestra under Sir Alexander Gibson. I was so impressed with the great violinist's tone, as well as the electric charge of the orchestral playing. The gap becomes even wider when comparing the new recording with great versions of the Sinfonia Concertante (my favourite is the team of friends: Perlman, Zukerman and Mehta on DGG). These are good enough performances to give an appreciation to the first approximation of Mozart's joyful middle period and his incipient genius, but only that.

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