Berg, Beethoven: Violin Concertos

Isabelle Faust / Claudio Abbado / Orchestra Mozart

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Berg, Beethoven: Violin Concertos Review

by Blair Sanderson

Claudio Abbado and his hand-picked Orchestra Mozart have become famous for their exceptional recordings of music by their namesake, but to assume every work in their repertoire has a Koechel number attached to it would be a mistake. For this 2012 release, it demonstrates a great aptitude for the violin concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven and Alban Berg, and the playing is every bit as convincing as the treatment of Mozart's oeuvre. The featured soloist is Isabelle Faust, a violinist noted for her performances of modernist works from Bartók to Ligeti, and her handling of Berg's angular lines and sharply etched figurations makes the Violin Concerto feel both lyrical and anguished at the same time, though she does this with a fairly constrained tone. Faust's task in Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major requires less expressionistic intensity and considerably more nobility and expressive warmth. In this concerto, Faust's sound opens up and her playing becomes noticeably richer, bolder, and more brilliant. The orchestra provides appropriate support in both performances, though it's probably fair to say that the musicians show their enjoyment more openly in the Beethoven. Abbado draws impressive timbres and dynamics from the orchestra, and even though this group is a period ensemble, the sonorities are not overstylized or precious. Harmonia Mundi's reproduction is clear and pleasantly resonant, and the resonant acoustics give the music plenty of room to breathe.

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