Gimmick Instrument, Splendid Performances: Mozart’s Violin Concertos

Review by: Jens F. Laurson

Mozarts-Violin_Koncz_Sony_Laurson

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

A new recording of Mozart‘s violin concertos should bring something special to the table. Musically, that goes without saying, but that’s not what the marketing department employees at record labels are paid to ensure. The thing better have a hook–or “USP”, to use their jargon. Here, that unique selling point–doubly necessary, since no one outside of Vienna has ever heard of the violinist (Christoph Koncz is one of the concertmasters of the Vienna Philharmonic and therefore Viennese royalty)–is the instrument. Mozart’s own instrument, to be sure. Dusted and despeckled from its museum slumber and with the life fiddled back into it, it is the nominal star of this production. You might be right to think that this bodes badly for the venture, because–PR blather aside–it matters exactly squat in the making of a recording of violin concertos by Mozart–or anyone else–even if it featured the most beautiful-sounding Guarneri ever made.

Thank goodness that this recording offers a lot more than just some old, in-and-of-itself indifferent-sounding Mittenwald fiddle with a famous previous owner. Namely entertainment! These turn out to be terrific performances that best many a more famous soloist (Leonidas Kavakos with the Salzburg Camerata comes to mind) and match some of the better recent outings (i.e., the thoughtfully musical Frank Peter Zimmermann and the furiously virtuosic Henning Kraggerud).

The key to success owes much to the performance of Les Musiciens du Louvre (Marc Minkowski’s band), which provides the all-important underpinning: supple and buoyant, with drive but not hasty, graceful but not precious. And Koncz plays these concertos–musically demanding, technically less so–with a refreshing lack of pathos. His tone has grip and heft; there’s no “Dresden china” in his approach. The combo errs neither on the dainty nor on the overly vigorous side, which can be the twin pitfalls of early music performances. His own fresh but discreet cadenzas are an integral part of this confident but unassuming musical narrative.



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Recording Details:

Album Title: Mozart's Violin
Reference Recording: Zimmermann (Hänssler); Mutter II/LPO (DG); Kraggerud (Naxos), Concertos 3-5: Manze (Harmonia Mundi)

  • MOZART, WOLFGANG AMADEUS:
    Violin Concerto No. 1 in B-flat K. 207; No. 2 in D K. 211; No. 3 in G K. 216; No. 4 in D K. 218; No. 5 in A K. 219
  • Christoph Koncz (violin)
  • Les Musiciens du Louvre

  • Sony - 19439770672
  • CD

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