Violin Concerto in D, K218
Violin Concerto in A, K219
London Symphony Orchestra
Nikolaj Znaider (violin)

Recorded 18 December 2016 (K218) & 14 May 2017 at Barbican Hall, London
Duration: 50 minutes
Reviewed: March 2018

This is certainly the way to present a live performance: no audience noise, carefully judged silences between movements and no applause. The intensity of a live event is always evident.

Nikolaj Znaider’s accounts are broad and this is underlined because Henning Kraggerud’s recent recordings of these works for Naxos remain in the memory and are relatively swift. Mozart wrote no cadenzas and I assume that Znaider has composed his own – extensive but stylish. There is a strange moment in that for K218’s Finale, when we are given a snatch of the opening of Schubert’s Fifth Symphony. It took a moment or two to adjust to Znaider’s unhurried approach but there is a convincing combination of sturdiness and sophistication in his playing – many touches of echoed repetition charm the ear and the elegant but not-too-slow reading of the D-major’s Andante cantabile underlines the music’s gentility.

K219 is more robust if with rhythmic thrust, although the first-movement cadenza’s harmonic swerves might have surprised the composer but there is much sensitivity, and the tendency, evident particularly in the Adagio, to begin phrases with confidential softness is an appealing trait. The approach to the ‘Turkish’ Finale is more straightforward than might have been expected; there is no impression of wild gypsies interrupting the music as sometimes happens.

The LSO respects ‘period’ practice since the strings play with minimum vibrato. And as Znaider both plays and directs, he would have needed to move about and occasionally tiny changes in the positioning of the violin are detectable – more so in K218 – but perhaps this represents a tribute to the precision (if dryness) of the recorded sound.


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