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Mozart: Concertos (Vengerov)

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Audio CD (5 Mar. 2007)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B000KC82MG
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 157,897 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
  • Sample this album Artist - Artist (Sample)
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I think this is a marvellous CD, for quite a number of reasons, but there are a couple of things about it that are a little eccentric. The Sinfonia Concertante begins with an extraordinarily pompous 'call to attention' opening bar - very slow, very mannered. It's over, and an excellent, characterful performance follows, with beautiful playing from both soloists (Laurence Power is not in any way overshadowed by Vengerov), marvellous ensemble and an excellent accord with the small orchestra. In the two Concerti, Vengerov plays his own cadenzas, and I don't know why I have called this eccentric above, because he is of course fully entitled to do so. They are not Mozartian, but they are certainly not overblown either, and they are intensely violinistic and extremely enjoyable. Elsewhere in the Concerti, Vengerov's playing is quite beautiful and there are many turns of phrase which bring a smile to the listener - but they are perfectly respectful performances, very much so indeed, and they do have character as well. So I would say that this is a very enjoyable and interesting CD, and it certainly offers quite marvellous playing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.6 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm a musician and I give it 5 stars 19 Dec. 2007
By Ralph Padgug - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I'm writing this review after hearing the Sinfonia Concertante played on NPR (National Public Radio.) I'm a professional musician (flutist) and I have a special love for Mozart -- I already own 3 recordings of this work. As soon as they started playing this recording my ears perked up. This performance is breathtaking! The opening is slower than I've always heard it, but the playing is so full of nuances, the rhythms bouncing playfully, gentle changes in dynamics that match exactly what's going on in the lines of the music... that it didn't feel slow AT ALL. Rather, these musicians take their time to communicate more in each measure of music than any other recording or performance I've heard to date (and I've heard some excellent performances and own some great recordings.)

I was especially impressed by the ensemble between the 2 soloists. It literally feels like the same person (or Hindu deity with 4 arms, perhaps) is playing both violin and viola parts -- they are so "in sync" with each other. At the end of the 2nd mvmt cadenza, they do a long trill together. They start the trill slowly, speed it up, sustain it and then slow it back down -- ALL PERFECTLY IN UNISON -- any musician would realize how incredibly difficult that is to do. The effect is stunning.

I was so impressed with the performance that I immediately looked it up on Amazon to see what else was on the album. When I checked the customer reviews, out of curiosity, I was dumbfounded by what I read. I skimmed through a few of them, all negative, and decided to write one purely out of a sense of fairness. Everyone has a right to their opinion. Mine is that this is an absolutely wonderful recording of a great work that presents it in a new light -- by musicians with a very strong sense of Mozartean style who illuminate the work brilliantly. I felt so sorry for those poor reviewers who couldn't hear that. They really missed out on something!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully lyrical 8 Aug. 2007
By Matteo Goffriller - Published on
Format: Audio CD
One morning my radio alarm awoke me with the Sinfonia Concertante on this CD. It was immediately clear that this was a must buy album. The predominantly lyrical approach was clearly intended by Vengerov. According to the liner notes he looked for stylistic hints from specialists in early Mozart opera. The result is splendidly effective performances that are not quite the current mainstream. For me that is a good thing, since current performance standards seem narrow, mechanical, and self consciously brilliant to a fault. Having been familiar with these pieces for over 40 years, this CD was a refreshment.
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shallow, dull and poorly conceived 11 Dec. 2007
By Larry VanDeSande - Published on
Format: Audio CD
There was a time when now 32-year-old Maxim Vengerov was thought to be the reincarnation of David Oistrakh. If Oistrakh heard this terrible Mozart musicmaking, he'd not want mention in any such correlation. If your idea of Mozart is to play his solo violin works slowly and to make the composer's early work sound prissy -- as if the young and vibrant Mozart was as sickly and pale-skinned as the mature Chopin -- in oddly framed and heavy-footed textures with Mozart's lifeforce essentially drained, you'll like this recording.

Vengerov conducts as well as plays and, believe me, he is a lousy conductor. Medicore orchestral playing is mated to odd and sloppy phrasing that's often interrupted by transitions that emphasize inappropriately heavy downbeats in dotted rhythm fashion, as if he took 4/4 timing and switched it to 3/4 with three heavy boots stomping the notes.

The conductor's inattention to mediocre orchestral playing is consistent. No section of the orchestra is asked to give much; woodwinds are light, brief and sometimes hidden, horns are plangent and stillborn, and the string playing is just as prissy as Vengerov's solo work. I don't think it's out of class to say this is one of the worst Mozart recordings I've heard in 35 years' listening -- at least of the ones I can recall. There is, to my mind, hardly a redeeming factor about this recording that makes it either pleasurable or desirable.

For Vengerov completists, the sound is OK, he plays all the notes, sometimes well, and the accompanying essay outlines Vengerov's wayward approach to the composer and his music, saying he compares these works to Mozart's early operas. In one of the great moments of irony in the history of written notes accompanying recordings, Vengerov says, "My only indulgence was the style of cadenza." If only, indeed! The UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra, a group of 17-29-year-olds established in 2000, does nothing to save this recording. You shouldn't either.
15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ma;ybe Not the Right Guy for the Job 11 May 2007
By Tom - Published on
Format: Audio CD
No question Vengerov is a superb virtuoso violinist, but his interpretations of Mozart's lovely concertos seem to find him ill at ease or at least uncertain about how to proceed with the material. He just never seems to get quite comfortable, as is evident in the slow movements where his playing of the beautiful melodies never come close to acquiring the required sense of grace and elegance that they should possess. For a performer who so magically mastered the complexities of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, Vengerov has yet to resolve a set of very different challenges in Mozart's far less technically demanding concertos. Great sounding CD, though.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fiddled-with Mozart, mostly slow and recessive 15 April 2007
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I'm rarely startled by the opening bars of a performance as much as when Vengerov begins the great Mozart Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat K. 364. Not only is the tempo quite measured, but there is a strong accented push on the thrid chord, a touch not heard in other readings. One also notes the period-flavor violin tone with its minimal vibrato. A few bars later we get more quirky accents from the oboes, so it's apparent that Vengerov has something new to say. Subduing his vvirtuosity completely, his first entry is understated, almost recessive. Violist Lawrence Power follows his lead in a performance that can be called either thoughtful or lagging. There's little joy or excitement, a shock from the great Russian violinist, who serves as his own conductor, and a routine one at that. There are lots of personal touches throughout in terms of phrasing and accents, but since it's Vengerov who invented them and not Mozart, I found most of them jarring.

The coupling consists of two Mozart violin concertos, the second and fourth, played in the same understated style, the allegro finales being distinctly pale and joyless. One hears how refined Vengerov wants to be, and yet I never quite paid attention. The Verbier Festival Orch. is expert, and EMI's sound is fine. But in the end I felt that Vengerov was primarily palying for himself.
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