Mozart: Violin Concertos Nos. 1-3 (CD review)
Having apparently exhausted the repertoire of Vivaldi a few years before, Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante players embarked on Mozart's five violin concertos, the first three of which appear on this disc. The results are mixed.
Listeners know Biondi well for his hearty, zestful approach to music making, and while this might work fine in baroque pieces, he could have better moderated his performances in these later, classical pieces. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned (yes, probably), but I found most of Biondi's readings here lacking in grace, elegance, or refinement. It's true that the slow, middle movements come off well when Biondi holds up long enough to let the music breathe, especially in the Andante of Concerto No. 2, but the outer movements are just too fast and perfunctory for me.
A quick comparison to older recordings (there's that old-fashioned guy again) by Grumiaux, Mutter, and Oistrakh reveals a wealth of subtlety and nuance that simply isn't there with Biondi. Nor did I find Biondi's playing of the principal parts particularly striking; indeed, most of the time, he tends to fade into the backdrop.
However, there are two compensating factors with Biondi: (1) There is no denying that his interpretations are exciting and provide a kind of exhilarating experience that most of the older recordings do not; and (2) his technique works reasonably well in Concerto No. 3, which is a more fiery and dynamic piece of music than the others to begin with. So, I rather enjoyed hearing No. 3 taken at a brisk pace, as it added to the music's already keen spirit.
The Virgin engineers capture a fairly natural sound, not too close up or too distant, with a warm, wide, full orchestral spread (there are about a dozen performers involved). Inner detail is not exactly vivid, but the overall result is natural and easy on the ear.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.