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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D major, K.211 (1775) [18.28]
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major ‘Turkish’, K.219 (1775) [27.43]
Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra in E flat major, K.364 (1779) [28.47]
Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin, Antione Taaamesit, viola (K.364)
Kammerorchester des Symphonieorchesters des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Radoslaw
Szulc (leader)
rec. 28/30 June 2015 Herkulessaal, Munich.

Hänssler Classic has released a Mozart album that Peter Zimmermann recorded in 2015 at Herkulessaal, Munich. With the Kammerorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks this is the second release in Zimmermann’s series of the complete set of five Mozart violin concertos plus the Sinfonia Concertante, K.364. Incidentally the first Zimmermann/Hänssler release in the set was reviewed on MusicWeb in 2015 (review).

I saw Zimmermann perform as recently as September 2016 playing Bartók’s First Violin Concerto with the Bayerisches Staastsorchester under Kirill Petrenko at the Philharmonie as part of the Musikfest Berlin. He is one of the finest violinists of his generation. Here, using his 1711 Stradivarius, once owned by Fritz Kreisler, he is playing Mozart’s Second and Fifth Violin Concertos together with violist Antione Taaamesit in the Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra, K364. The Kammerorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, founded in 1999, is predominantly a string ensemble made up of players from the renowned Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Here co-founder and artistic director Radoslaw Szulc leads from the violin.

All five of Mozart’s violin concertos were written during his extremely difficult period of engagement as composer to the court orchestra of Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg. For many years it was generally thought that Mozart had composed all of them in 1775, however, it is now generally acknowledged that Mozart wrote the Violin Concerto No. 1, K207 as early as 1773, when he was just seventeen.

In some quarters the Violin Concerto No. 2 is acknowledged as the least adventurous of the set. The Allegro moderato is sparklingly played with keen concentration and the beautifully refined Andante has an aching tenderness and lovely control. Zimmermann lavishes an abundance of exuberance on the uplifting Rondo, Finale. The lengthier Violin Concerto No. 5 ‘Turkish’ with its more complex orchestration is rightly acknowledged as the pinnacle of the set. The vigorous opening movement Allegro aperto is performed with freshness and vitality. In the near meditative Adagio Zimmermann plays with tender introspection and a yearning tone. Especially enjoyable is the final movement Rondeau. This elegant and rather gracious Tempo di menuetto contains a contrasting, fleet and picturesque Alla turca section, which gives the score its epithet ‘Turkish’.

The album concludes with the Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola, K.364. Mozart composed the score in Salzburg during the summer of 1779 following his return from Paris, where he had evidently been inspired by his visit to Mannheim. One might notice that this superb score in the bold and heroic key of E flat major is more technically complex than its outward charm might suggest and deserves to be included more often on concert programmes. Zimmermann joined by violist Antione Taaamesit imparts a wonderful bittersweet quality to this glowing music. The substantial opening Allegro maestoso feels symphonic in its ambitions but retains an agreeable rather thoughtful quality. In the glorious writing of the Andante the sense of profound introspection is splendidly conveyed by the duo’s warm and sensitive playing. The closing Presto, bustling and gloriously melodic in the manner of a Rondo, has a light-hearted quality interpreted with a brisk and vibrant dialogue by the partnership.

Zimmermann’s well focused playing exhibits impeccably control and effortless virtuosity whilst maintaining unerring eloquence. The beautiful melodic line this accomplished artist produces is especially impressive. Kammerorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, an ensemble that, in concert, plays standing, is directed from the violin by leader Radoslaw Szulc. They provide unwaveringly assured playing using modern instruments. They are both vibrant and sensitively expressive.

The sound quality from the Herkulessaal is excellently engineered being vividly clear and satisfactorily balanced. This well produced album has an informative essay on the works written by Dirk Stöve which adds to the quality.

These are superb performances, which I consider the equal of the much admired and evergreen 1964 London accounts from Arthur Grumiaux with violist Arrigo Pellicia with the London Symphony Orchestra and Colin Davis. Nevertheless, if I had to select one complete set it would be the magnificent performances on period instruments from baroque violinist Giuliano Carmignola with violist Danusha Waskiewicz accompanied by Orchestra Mozart under Claudio Abbado. Carmignola was recorded in 2007 at Salone Bolognini, Bologna and is released on Archiv Produktion (review).

Michael Cookson



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