BIS SACD 1754
Reviewed by Alistair Noble, November 1st, 2014
This CD of two Mozart violin concertos and the Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola was released in 2010, but has only recently landed upon this reviewer’s desk. Does the world need another recording of Mozart concertos, one might wonder? As it turns out, the answer is emphatically yes in this case. This CD is a masterwork of performance on the part of Tognetti, violist Christopher Moore and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, captured in a truly sensational sound recording by Swedish tonmeister Jens Braun.
Mozart’s five violin concertos were all composed in 1775, in one of his typical fits of enthusiasm. At this time, Mozart was 19 years old and more-or-less holding down a day job as a court composer in Salzburg while desperately trying to escape to some other more exciting city. The composer was a fine violinist, and it seems most likely that the concertos were initially written for himself to play. Other virtuosos played the works as well, however, and Mozart even made alternative versions of some movements to suit the playing of his Salzburg colleague Antonio Brunetti. In their original forms, however, part of the great charm of these works for 21st century audiences is the sense we have of the violin as Mozart’s voice—we seem to catch some sensibility in these pieces, however faint and distant, of the composer’s own manner of playing.
In the 3rd and 5th concertos represented here, we find Mozart rapidly finding his feet with this genre but also, characteristically, stretching it and reforming the nature of the concerto itself as he works. Each movement is brim-full of the young composer’s irrepressible melodic invention, his operatic sense of drama and expressivity, his growing mastery of orchestral textures, and the structural ingenuity that binds it all together.
Richard Tognetti is one of the world’s great Mozart violinists, and he has a rare affinity for these concertos. He seems completely at home in them, with a natural apprehension of their complex and subtle universe that is uncanny and vital. For performing these works, Tognetti has developed an ideal palette of colours to work with, and a style that is intelligently formed around period-appropriate performance practice yet also very individual and fresh. The subtle nuances and rhythmic inflections are captivating, but Tognetti never loses sight of the overall direction and shape of a movement or indeed the work as a whole. It is these same qualities and insights that make him such a remarkable ensemble director, and in these performances the Australian Chamber Orchestra match his every move.
Playing on gut strings, and with a wind section of suitable period instruments, the orchestra produces a wonderfully clear and rich sound—something that is especially important for the Sinfonia Concertante, a work that highlighted, in 1779, Mozart’s increasingly large-scale, symphonic approach to the concerto form. Here, Tognetti is joined by the equally prodigious Christopher Moore as viola soloist. The two have a superbly unified approach to the work, which presents considerable challenges due its scale and complex structure (not to mention the virtuosic demands made of the concertante duo).
The Australian Chamber Orchestra celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2015, and Richard Tognetti has been its artistic director since 1989. Australian audiences are indeed fortunate to be able to hear this ensemble regularly in concert. This CD of Mozart concertos, however, represents a very important part of a significant legacy of recordings for the wider world and for posterity.
Richard Tognetti talks about the making of the recording http://youtu.be/D0o9zzCwwmc