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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons, concertos for violin, strings and basso continuo Op. 8: Nos. 1-4 (from Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione) (1723) [40:14]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K218 (1775) [28:24]
Henryk Szeryng (violin/conductor)
Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim
rec. 7 December 1969, Stuttgart Liederhalle Beethoven-Saal
SWR MUSIC SWR19041CD [68:49]

The coupling of Vivaldi-and-Mozart is not unique in Szeryng’s discography of live performances. On BBC Legends BBCL 4210-2 (see review) the Mozart concerto, however, was the G major whilst here it’s the A major. This German brace was broadcast just over two years before the ECO and both were self-directed.

There are few differences between the two Vivaldi performances, interpretatively speaking, but the SWR tapes are brighter, clearer and more detailed than the BBC. There’s the same refinement and elegance, the same approach to tempi and tempo relationships, similar rubati and a familiarly smooth legato. Spring’s canine sounds decidedly muzzled, if not quite unconscious. Autumn is becalmed, rhythms stretched, its finale somewhat stodgy-sounding, as was indeed the case in 1972 though Szeryng works well with the uncredited leader of the Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim. Naturally he doesn’t embellish the Largo of Winter, preferring the then standard approach of lyric purity. All these observations apply to the studio recording Szeryng left of the work.

His recording of the Mozart concerto cycle with Alexander Gibson and the New Philharmonia has been augmented by the occasional live traversal, as in the case of the G major in the BBC disc. Though he was perhaps less individual a Mozartian than other great exponents at the time, such as Grumiaux and Goldberg, for instance, his playing here is characteristically pristine, his portamenti remaining discreet and tastefully applied. His phrasing is beautifully calibrated at all times, and he is thoughtfully introspective in the slow movement and correspondingly airy in the finale. Neither the wit nor the Janissary elements are overdone; the feeling throughout is one of things being decorously apt. Once again, the clarity of the original SWR tapes is a real help.

Szeryng played the Four Seasons rather often in the period between 1969 and 1972 or so and he was not an artist radically to rethink his approach in so short a period of time. His Mozart is always worth hearing and it’s a real advantage to find such good sound quality as one finds in this fine restoration.

Jonathan Woolf



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