Mozart: Violin Concertos/Biondi

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Every violinist on the planet is recording Mozart for the “Mozart year” of 2006, and most of these new discs have been very good. This one is no exception. The logical comparison to Fabio Biondi is Andrew Manze’s recent disc for Harmonia Mundi, which contains Concertos 3-5. Manze has the more popular pieces, but Biondi’s approach perhaps has more to offer in the rarely heard (outside complete sets) Nos. 1 and 2. In short, Europa Galante has a more “period” sound than does Manze’s English Concert. This gives the music less blend, with very prominent woodwinds and horns–but more to the point, Biondi’s tone sounds more of a piece with the ensemble.

In particular, if you turn to the heavenly slow movement of the Third Concerto for comparison, you will find that Biondi’s orchestra lacks the velvety-smooth quality that Manze conjures–however, Biondi’s solo not only permits a welcome touch of warm vibrato on his initial entrance, but overall he plays with a fuller, bolder timbre. I find the result less jarring and emotionally more persuasive without being necessarily better in terms of sheer technical musicianship. Ultimately it’s a matter of personal taste, and since the two recordings only share a single work, if you want to collect a vibrant set of Mozart violin concertos on period instruments, get both, and be happy. The bright, tactile sonics match the extravert nature of the performances. A fine disc. [4/3/2006]

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Grumiaux (Philips)

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART - Violin Concertos Nos. 1-3

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