Mozart: Violin Concertos 2 & 4; Sinfonia concertante (CD review)

Maxim Vengerov, violin; Lawrence Power, viola. UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. EMI 0946 3 78374 2 9.

Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't find much joy in this release. Certainly, the participants are first-rate: Maxim Vengerov has produced a number of fine violin recordings; the youthful UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra is well disciplined; and EMI is among the best record companies in the business. Why, then, did I find the performances so listless?

Perhaps Vengerov was trying to get things back to a more traditional style after all the zippy period-instruments playing of the past two decades; I don't know. What we have, though, are rather slow, sometimes ponderous interpretations with little life and little charm. Vengerov appears to be going back to a lusher, more-Romantic style than we hear nowadays. A quick comparison to my favored Anne-Sophie Mutter recordings shows Ms. Mutter more dynamic and more zestful, without being all that much quicker. Vengerov's brand of Romanticism can perhaps be taken too far.

EMI's sound is a bit thin, too, especially in the string tone, which doesn't help much. The midrange is fairly well presented, but there is not much extension in the treble or bass, nor is there much orchestral depth, transparency, ambience, or air. I suppose the most positive thing one could say of these 2006 recordings, made in Henry Wood Hall, London, is that they are calm and relaxed. They just don't strike me as being very stimulating.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa