Mozart
Violin Concerto in B-flat, K207
Violin Concerto in D, K211
Violin Concerto in G, K216
London Symphony Orchestra
Nikolaj Znaider (violin)

Recorded 18 December 2016 (K207) & 7 December 2017 at Barbican Hall, London
CD No: LSO LIVE LSO0804 [SACD]
Duration: 62 minutes
Reviewed: January 2019

As with Nikolaj Znaider’s excellent recordings of Concertos K218 & K219 LSO Live employs the ideal system for transferring concert performances to disc. There is no detectable audience noise; pauses between movements are carefully judged and, most importantly, applause is removed. This should set an example for all other companies.

In the later Concertos I noted a general breadth of tempo, but this is not entirely the case with the first three; indeed the opening movement of K207 is notably brisk. Znaider is well-balanced against the LSO, here suitably reduced, and the horns, playing in high register, brighten the texture joyfully; Znaider takes great care over the orchestral lines. Perhaps a conductor would have been stricter in rhythm in the Finale, yet the sense of freedom suits Znaider’s upbeat realisation of this youthful music.

The tendency towards swifter tempos in these three Concertos is clearly to do with the soloist’s feeling for each movement – their earliness is not a factor since all five Violin Concertos were completed between 1773 and 1776. Without wishing to be unkind, I might suggest that the opening theme of K211 is rather ordinary – but Znaider’s keen yet eloquent tone causes the music to surge gracefully along. The darker slow movement is then given with comforting thoughtfulness and the delicate woodwind contributions in the Finale help support Znaider’s light approach.

Although of a similar length to that of its companions, K216 is a more substantial work and is treated as such. I believe all the (uncredited) cadenzas to be Znaider’s own and those provided for this work are a little more serious. The opening Allegro includes many powerful chords and here Znaider’s violin mirrors the positive orchestral contribution while still ensuring that his attractively bright tone always falls graciously upon the ear, typify all that is best in these admirable performances. The expansive cadenza is original in conception but never strays far from Mozart’s thematic content. Flowing simplicity informs this subtly-phrased Adagio, whereas flexibility, daintiness and charm are all elements of this reading of the Finale. Slight softening of rhythm matches the soloist’s phrasing admirably; there must have been close cooperation between soloist and leader in rehearsal. The cadenza is brief but very pertinent to the surge of the music and it leads to the charming closing bars – not really a coda, merely a place where the orchestra stops playing because Mozart has provided all that is needed.

 

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