This is an excellent disc of two of Haydn's rarely-heard violin concerti and Mozart's sublime Sinfonia Concertante (effectively a double concerto for violin and viola). It's a very engaging programme of terrific, enjoyable music with first-rate performances.
Both these Haydn concerti were new to me, and this disc made me wonder why they are not heard more often. There are distinct echoes of Haydn's two cello concerti, and while these violin concerti are not in the same class as those two great masterpieces, there is engaging and enjoyable music in abundance here. Rachel Podger's playing is, as always, superlative - her tone is beautiful and her technique impeccable, and she brings out all the charm and beauty in Haydn's music. The orchestra is a small string ensemble of very good musicians which gives it a suppleness and spring entirely appropriate to these pieces, making them an absolute delight from start to finish.
By contrast with the Haydn concerti, Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante is a much-performed and recorded piece, and rightly so - it is, as Rachel Podger puts it, "a beautifully crafted masterpiece." This means that this recording is up against some very stiff competition, and it comes out very well indeed. Ms Podger is partnered here by Pavlo Beznosuik, a very fine viola player. They both play Stradivari and the combination of these magnificent instruments, superb musicianship and a real empathy between them makes for something really special. Both soloists have a very distinguished background in baroque music and I think this gives them a very fresh, direct approach which never gets bogged down in the saccharine nonsense which mars some Mozart performances. The orchestra (augmented with winds) is again ideally responsive and the whole thing is a real pleasure.
The notes are informative and interesting, and the recorded sound is very good (if a little bass-heavy at times). In short, this is a terrific disc, and very highly recommended.
on 5 September 2010
This recording is a curious mix. The "Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment" is dedicated to period performance and all 3 pieces are played at modern concert pitch.
The Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for Violin Viola and Orchestra has the soloists Rachel Podger and Pavlo Beznoziuk using a borrowed Stradivari violin and viola with modern setup and period bows, and for the 2 Haydn violin concertos Rachel Podger uses her baroque violin, also the viola in the Mozart is not tuned a semitone higher as the original score by Mozart indicates.
Both soloists in the Mozart are suberb players, however Podger and the strings in the OAE use the bowing technique where the sound bulges rather like a concertina, but Beznosiuk does not to any noticable extent.
As the string family are voice instruments and no singer would sing with a bulge in the sound, the solo viola playing is to my ears a refreshing change from the usual seasick impression that period specialists regard as "de rigeur"
Having said that Podger plays with real artistry. She uses some vibrato and the occasional poratamento in the Mozart,and often the bulge is missing, for instance in the etherial slow movement of the Haydn C Major Violin concerto.
I was told by a violinist friend from the English National Opera Orchestra, that when a Handel opera was in rehearsal the management hired a baroque specialist from the Royal Academy of Music to coach the orchestra in baroque playing style and the strings were advised to play without vibato and bulge the sound. Afterwards the orchestra's leader passed down an instruction "Ignore it"
I do recommend the CD for the quality of the performances. There is no conductor and the OAE are clearly in sympathy with the solists.