Mozart • The Violin Concertos - Highlights

Anne-Sophie Mutter and the London Philharmonic Orchestra
Deutsche Grammophon/JVC XRCD2 450 674-1



by John Crossett | February 21, 2013

ozart is most readily associated with the piano, and rightly so as some of his keyboard works are among his very best. But let's not forget that he was just as prodigious a player and composer for the violin. Around 1775, when he was only 19, he wrote all five of his violin concertos -- an amazing feat for someone so young. These concertos have become an essential part of the repertoire of any violinist worth his or her salt. Anne-Sophie Mutter has been playing Mozart’s concertos since she began on the violin. Mutter notes that these concertos are notable not only for their melodic beauty but also for the expressiveness and technical prowess required to play them. To her, they are as much about the beauty as they are about the bowing technique and the spaces between the notes. To quote, "With Mozart every note is precious, and has to be thought about -- particularly as the orchestration leaves you painfully exposed."

Thus, given her feelings about Mozart’s violin concertos, these performances of Concerto No.2 in D major, No.1 in B flat major and No.4 in D major should be very good at the least and excellent at the best. After my initial listen, I think exceptional is more accurate. Mutter plays with just the proper balance of technique, melodic harmony, and humor (given Mozart's personality, humor pervades all of the compositions in one form or another). She also understands that silence can enhance the musical experience, and Mutter uses it to do exactly that, though there is nothing slow or plodding about these performances.

Given the performances, any letdown in the sound would shatter an otherwise extraordinary album. Fortunately, JVC has taken the tapes and, using their 24-bit XRCD mastering process, extracted every last nuance of the playing as well as the space between the notes to perfection. Mutter’s violin is placed where it should be, just left of center, and is incredibly well recorded. You can hear both the short, choppy bow strokes as well as the longer bowing clearly. The orchestra is equally well captured. The musicians are spread across the soundstage and with enough depth to make you feel you are at the recording session.

While opinion of the vast majority of contemporary Deutsche Grammophon recordings is that they sound a bit thin, shrill and lacking in foundation, you won’t find any of that to be the case here. One listen will tell you that whatever the original recording's faults, they can’t be laid at the feet of the mastering engineer. This world-class performance is only enhanced by the equally top-quality sound. If you are as big a fan of Mozart and Anne-Sophie Mutter as I am, this disc will take a top spot in your classical library.

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