Mozart, Bach/Beethoven, Weber CDs reviewed


MOZART VIOLIN CONCERTOS VOL.1 : Dego / Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Norrington ★★

Chandos pairs Francesca Dego with Sir Roger Norrington in concertos Nos. 3 & 4. Norrington's priorities are, "Sources, Size, Seating, Speed, Sound and Style". What about beauty, sensual pleasure, romance and fun – Mozart's priorities? Pamela Frank and David Zinman's cycle, also using modern instruments with an eye on historical style, combines both. Compare the two performances of No.4's slow movement. Dego's pace is very brisk (5.19) the notes squeezed, phrasing clipped, all is neat and efficient. Frank is slower (7.25) but really makes the Andante cantabile sing and reveals Mozart's alternating low-high solo line as an operatic duo characterizing them as soprano and baritone with imaginative colour and rubato. Zinman's cadenza – more imaginative than Franco Gulli's for Dego – emphasizes this. The results in Concerto No.3 are the same. In Mozart's Sonata Op.1 No.4 Dego's small, restrained style is a mismatch with Francesca Leonardi's fulsome, bright-toned (and loud) Fazioli grand piano.

Norman Stinchcombe

BACH & BEETHOVEN: Andrew von Oeyen ★★

The American pianist Andrew von Oeyen is the sort of soloist record companies nowadays love – young, photogenic, a cosmopolitan sharp dresser. Would bald, baggy-suited cockney pianist Solomon get a recording contract today? None of this would matter if von Oeyen's performances set the pulse racing or dazzled with some imaginative insight or delicious morsel of phrasing. As a Julliard alumni von Oeyen is obviously technically gifted – the torrential finale of Beethoven's Appassionata sonata holds no terrors for him and he's exciting without going over-the-top like Richter and the Andante also shows more tenderness than the Russian master. But in Op.27 No.1 – where Beethoven is in his most puckish and grotesquely humorous mood – he's deadly dull compared to Paul Lewis or Jean-Efflam Bavouzet who capture its capricious whackiness. In Bach's Overture in the French Style he's neat and tidy but unimaginative and dry compared with Angela Hewitt or Glenn Gould.

Norman Stinchcombe

WEBER: Helmchen / Prohaska / Konzerthausorchester Berlin / Eschenbach ★★★★

The Berlin Concert House was opened in 1821 and the highlight of its first season was the premiere of Weber's supernatural opera Der Freischütz. The original building was destroyed in the Allied bombing of World War II with the new dating from 1984. Weber's music was the obvious choice for a concert recording celebrating the Concert House's bicentenary – and very enjoyable it is too. The orchestra's tone is warm and mellow and Christoph Eschenbach emphasizes its old-world character with richly satisfying performances. It's off to a fine start with Weber's romantic overture The Ruler of the Spirits and concludes the the mercurial Oberon overture. Martin Helmchen is the excellent soloist in the sparkling Konzertstück for Piano and Orchestra, combining tight control with improvisatory flair. The atmospheric Freischutz overture – those diminished sevenths still magical after two centuries – introduces Ännchen's two arias from the opera which suit Anna Prohaska's light soprano perfectly.

Norman Stinchcombe

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