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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat, K. 207 [20:46]
Adagio in E, K. 261 [6:56]
Rondo in C, K. 373 [5:32]
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K. 216 [22:28]
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K. 218 [21:49]
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin)
Chamber Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Radoslaw Szulc
rec. info not provided with eClassical download

There are many, many recordings of the Mozart violin concertos. There must be hundreds but this is truly one of the very finest, part of the cream of the crop. It combines the best insights of the period-performance movement with the luxuries of the modern orchestra. The tempos and interpretive decisions are faultless. Frank Peter Zimmermann, playing a 1711 Stradivarius once owned by Fritz Kreisler, is fully matched by the players from the Bavarian Radio Symphony.

Conductor Radoslaw Szulc, the one unknown quantity on this album, is in fact the regular conductor of the Bavarian Radio chamber group, and for a long time was the symphony’s concertmaster. One can’t help but wonder if his background as a virtuoso violinist, and orchestral leader, helps explain the masterful rapport with Zimmermann. Aided by the generally lively tempos, the orchestra is closely entwined with the soloist, rather than being mere ‘support’.

These performances do not use period instruments, but they show that Zimmermann and his friends are aware of historical practices. Tempos are generally bracing, and orchestral phrasing often has an edge of added drama — the horns are especially appealing. Zimmermann is intelligent in his use of vibrato. Nobody could accuse the slow movements of lacking grace or lyricism, and the performers don’t try to puff up the importance of Mozart’s earliest works.

At this level of excellence, comparisons fly out the window. I do have other recordings of these concertos, and one or two may be as good as this, but none are better. It’s as simple as that. Only one comparison is something the reader might find interesting: that of Frank Peter Zimmermann’s own previous cycle of Mozart concertos, on EMI Classics. That was thirty years ago, and Hänssler claims that FPZ has performed the concertos, live, over three hundred times each since then. Besides superior recording technology, this recording also boasts the period-performance influence and, arguably, a superior chamber orchestra. Each track on the new disc is also a few seconds faster.

The chamber orchestra and soloist are beautifully recorded, although I must say the “booklet” provided by usually-excellent eClassical is missing several pages. I can’t complain about the sound files, however. In fact, the only complaints possible about this disc are that (1) the back cover design is ugly, and (2) Volume 2 hasn’t arrived yet. At least in my personal collection, a new standard for Mozart concertos.

Brian Reinhart

Previous review: Michael Greenhalgh (Recording of the Month)



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