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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in B-flat major, K. 207 (1775) [20:07]
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216 (1775) [22:29]
Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, K. 364 (1779) [29:56]
Renaud Capuçon (violin); Antoine Tamestit (viola)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Louis Langrée
rec. 17-20 September 2007, Perth Concert Hall, Scotland DDD
VIRGIN CLASSICS 5021122 [72:56]
Experience Classicsonline


Violinist Renaud Capuçon continues to expand his solo concerto repertoire. Previously he recorded the Mendelssohn and Schumann concertos, which I have not heard, and the Dutilleux, which I have and also reviewed here. Whatever I have heard him do, whether it is solo works or chamber music, I have never heard anything less than an outstanding performance. Last year I attended a performance at the Kennedy Center by the Capuçon/Angelich Trio, performing Haydn, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich. It was one of the most memorable experiences in my many years of concert-going. Now he has mastered Mozart. 

Although I have not heard the recent recordings of these concertos by some of today’s younger violinists, who have incorporated period practice in their performances, I doubt any could top the ones on this disc. Capuçon is further accompanied by an orchestra that has been well trained in Mozartean style by Sir Charles Mackerras and conducted here by Louis Langrée, no slouch either when it comes to Mozart. Langrée has been director of a revitalized Mostly Mozart Festival in New York since December 2002. From the beginning tutti of the concertos, it is clear these interpretations are going to be dynamic with little or no throwback to earlier Romantic practices that have affected some of the great violinists of the past. The accord between soloist and the chamber orchestra seems total, with the important wind parts getting their share of attention. Yet, there is no lack of warmth in the playing. Just sample any of the slow movements to witness that. Tempos are somewhat on the brisk side throughout, but not to the detriment of the music. Indeed, there is much joyousness conveyed here, leaving one with a smile after coming away from these performances. Capuçon and Langrée also capture the humor in the music well, for example in the folk-like passage in the Third Concerto’s rondo. The two concertos here are slighter works than the mature piano concertos or the Clarinet Concerto, but they still possess plenty of interest and enough depth to merit the ever-increasing number of recordings they have been getting of late. 

The Sinfonia Concertante, on the other hand, is one of Mozart’s most sublime creations. In this work Capuçon is partnered with Antoine Tamestit, whom I had not heard before. He is clearly up to the task and an equal partner to the violinist. They play as a team, and the orchestra gives them superb support. Note the wonderful horns throughout the piece. One of my favorite recordings, from an earlier generation, of this great work is that by David and Igor Oistrakh with David also conducting the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI). I compared the two recordings and must say that they are complementary. Where the Oistrakhs are smooth and mellow (should I add, “somewhat Romantic”?), Capuçon and Tamestit are bracing and dramatic. Both approaches work well in this music, and I would not want to be without either. It is interesting that the Oistrakhs take 11:52 versus 10:43 for Capuçon/Tamestit in the Andante (second movement). Both are convincing, as this work thrives on a variety of approaches. 

With his clear, pure tone Renaud Capuçon brings to mind Arthur Grumiaux, his renowned forerunner of the Franco-Belgian school. I can think of no higher compliment to pay him, other than to say that his performances are in complete service to the music and not the music to him. Let’s hope now that the other three Mozart concertos will follow in short order.

Leslie Wright 

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