Mozart: Complete Violin Concertos; Isabelle Faust (violin), with Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini, conductor

I like the way violinist Isabelle Faust mix and matches her accompaniments on her wonderful recordings. Her modern violin playing with original instrumental groups such as the accompanying band here, Il Giardino Armonico. 21st Century fiddling, baroque bowing at times and HIP practice. 

So, how does it work for her recording of Mozart's Salzburg Violin Concertos? 

There are five brilliant concertos for violin, all composed before Mozart was 19. He was not even 15 years old when he began composing the first. They served as the Archbishop's Salzburg reception music. Dinner music for his guests! 

Of course, Mozart always challenged convention and as the numbers of the Concertos increased, so did the complexity and sophistication. What we are left with is a well nigh flawless set of Concertos that are a perfect musical foil for violin virtuosos. 

Isabelle Faust is one of the most probing and intellectual violinists before the public. Her repertoire choices always have a musical angle -- not for effects sake, but for what turns out to be supremely musical choices.  

Here, we have period accompanists in the form of I'll Giardino Armonico. What an inspired choice. They add beautifully to the proceedings. Discussion about the recent Lisa Batiashvili Tchaikovsky/Sibelius recording reviewed in Audiophilia [reviewed here] suggests that most new recordings use a journeyman orchestra to save money. Not so, Faust. Or Batiashvili! So, Mozart's splendid orchestrations will not sound like the Mozarteum Orchestra (not that that's a bad thing). And like the Staatskapelle on the recent DG, are gloriously recorded. 

The Mozart accompaniments are primarily strings, oboes and horns. The players from Armonico are a delight. Everything is perfectly weighted underneath the glorious solo playing. Conductor Giovanni Antonini keeps things moving. Rhythms never flag and the cadences are beautifully balanced. 

 

Il Giardino Armonico.

Il Giardino Armonico.

Faust's playing is delightful throughout. Her musicianship is always in service of the music. Of course, she gets all the notes. But it's no wonder the best conductors want to work with her. Her Mozart, the most difficult of composers to play, sounds beautiful. You'll be carried on flawless balances, gorgeous melodies and beautiful harmonies. I don't subscribe to Mozart as the snotty nosed virtuoso, composing for the hell of it. These are glorious works, played for all they're worth.

The recording is equally spectacular. Whether delicate or earthy, the recording captures Faust's bowing and dynamics and those of the orchestra. The orchestra sounds completely natural and Faust's sound is sweetly effortless. Everything unfolds as it should. The recording gives you all the drama and pathos, just as Mozart intended.

Faust's “Sleeping Beauty” 1704 Stradivarius sounds superb on the newly commissioned cadenzas by Andreas Staier, one of Harmonia mundi’s eminent musical scholars. They're a perfect fit. 

Like the many Faust recordings on harmonia mundi, add this 2 CD Mozart Concerto set to the list of superlative releases. An easy winner. 

Program 

Violin Concertos Nos. 1-5 (Complete)

Rondo for Violin and Orchestra in B flat, K269

Rondo for Violin and Orchestra in C, K373

Adagio for Violin and Orchestra in E, K261

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. I. Allegro Moderato
  2. II. Adagio
  3. III. Presto
  4. Rondo for Violin and Orchestra in B-flat Major, K269
  5. I. Allegro Moderato
  6. II. Andante
  7. III. Rondeau: Allegro
  8. I. Allegro
  9. II. Adagio
  10. III. Rondeau: Allegro - Andante - Allegretto - Tempo Primo

Disc: 2

  1. Rondo for Violin and Orchestra in C Major, K373
  2. I. Allegro
  3. II. Andante Cantabile
  4. III. Rondeau: Andante Grazioso - Allegro Ma Non Troppo
  5. Adagio for Violin and Orchestra in E Major, K261
  6. I. Allegro Aperto - Adagio - Allegro Aperto
  7. II. Adagio
  8. III. Rondeau: Tempo Di Menuetto - Allegro - Tempo Di Menuetto
  • Isabelle Faust [violin]
  • Il Giardino Armonico, 
  • Giovanni Antonini [director]
  • 2 CD - 2h 9mn 29s
  • ref. HMC902230/31
  • release date. 2016-11-04