I recently reviewed the high profile
recording of K364 made by Maxim Vengerov
and Laurence Power and have to say I
much prefer this Graffin-Imai traversal.
It’s more natural in expression, lacks
idiosyncratic quirks, and goes deeper.
The acoustic is rather too boomy for
my liking but there are numerous felicities
that compensate. There’s a slightly
military snap to things and the Mannheim
crescendos have a real swagger about
them. Then there are the horns of the
Brabant Philharmonic, which are on particularly
engaging form. Most prominent of course
is the tonal congruity between the soloists,
which lends the slow movement a sense
of refined gravity. The finale is finely
judged and not at all declamatory. There’s
a particularly relishable legato sweep
to the phrasing here that compels admiration.
So too is the way Graffin, soloist and
director, refuses to indulge metrical
or other worrisome features.
He is the soloist and
director once more in the G major concerto.
The robust and resonant acoustic is
again not quite to my liking but it
actually rather suits the nature of
the performance. Graffin has a small,
sweet and concentrated tone capable
of refined colour and he projects sympathetically.
It’s particularly good to see that he
has arranged Ysaÿe’s first movement
cadenzas here – it’s seldom played and
well worth hearing once in a while,
if not all the time. The other cadenzas
are by Graffin. The warm string moulding
in the slow movement is admirable and
Graffin is able to imbue the orchestral
fabric generally with considerable feeling.
I would question some rather distended
first movement phrasing and the fact
that the finale can sound, in part,
just a little rushed. Both the Adagio
and Rondo, so difficult to programme
in concert but perfect on disc, are
splendidly dispatched – and with thoughtful
perception as well as fine tone.
The second disc lasts
only forty minutes but is devoted to
the two magnificent duos. Here we hear
the two soloists at their most fluent
and expressive. Imai has the potential
to over-balance Graffin but her rich
tone is a joy to hear; fortunately the
balance remains true. Both musicians
balance the extrovert and interior aspects
of these big works remarkably well.
Those with long memories will recall
the Grumiaux and Pelliccia recording
– as they will indeed their Sinfonia
Concertante with Colin Davis.
These are enjoyable
performances – not spotless it’s true
but nevertheless engaging and often
vibrant. The programming is suitably
novel and idiosyncratic to render rival
versions pretty meaningless, so if you
admire the two string players you will
find nourishment in their Mozart playing.