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Mozart: Violin concertos/Thorsen

Dan Davis

Artistic Quality:

Sound Quality:

Marianne Thorsen is most active as a chamber player. She’s founding member and violinist of the well-regarded Leopold String Trio, leader of the Nash Ensemble, and also has toured as a soloist and made numerous recordings in that role. Here she’s heard with the Trondheim Solisten, a superb chamber orchestra from the town of her birth, in Mozart’s mature violin concertos. She’s up against some fearsome competition in these works, including complete sets by the velvet-toned David Oistrakh and the elegant Artur Grumiaux, among many others. If Thorsen doesn’t quite take top Mozart honors, she certainly offers excellent performances that generally wed individuality, elegance, and a touch of intensity. There’s also a measure of brilliance to much of the playing, especially in the outer movements. In general, tempos are on the expansive side but never veer from the acceptable.

Warm phrasing characterizes slow movements, which flow nicely despite measured tempos. Thus the Adagio of K. 216 is tenderly sung, while in parts of the Andante cantabile of K. 218 Thorsen scales her tone down to a whisper and later brings a hushed intensity to the Adagio of K. 219’s cadenza. If some passages seem somewhat underplayed, it may be because the memory of Oistrakh and Grumiaux linger in the brain.

The Trondheim Solisten is a small band (21 players) but sounds much bigger. The strings have bite as well as smoothness; the winds are perfectly balanced and never swamped by the ensemble. Thorsen plays cadenzas by Sam Franko (K.216) and Eugéne Ysaye (K. 218 and K.219).

If Thorsen doesn’t eclipse her predecessors, she does trump such more celebrated contemporaries as the usually stunning Maxim Vengerov, whose latest venture into Mozart for EMI is distinguished by torpor and mannerisms that needn’t have been immortalized on disc. But if Thorsen’s Mozart isn’t a mandatory first choice it is a mandatory acquisition for audiophiles, for the sound is among the best I’ve heard in a long time.

2L is a Norwegian audiophile label whose catalogue includes fine recordings by Norwegian composers, artists, and ensembles. This disc is recorded in what the label calls DXD. Without getting into the technical details, the vividness and life-like naturalness of the recording are striking, recalling the old Mercury Living Presence LPs.

In both CD and SACD stereo formats the sound is involving, close-up but with plenty of width, depth, and air around the instruments. Details like the wind parts or the lower strings’ held notes under the soloist in the cadenza of the third movement of K. 218, often lost in recordings, are graphically present here. The gatefold package contains two discs: one a Redbook CD, the other an SACD (stereo and multichannel) only playable on SACD players. Surround sound buffs doubtless will feel that format trumps the others. [7/2/2008]

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Grumiaux (Philips), Oistrakh (EMI)

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART - Violin Concertos in G K. 216; D K. 218; & A K. 219

  • Record Label: 2L - 38
  • Medium: CD

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