Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216, and Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major, K. 218, are so commonly heard and abundantly available on recordings that one may suspect a major reason for this Sony Classical release was that Taiwanese-Australian-American violinist Ray Chen and conductor Christoph Eschenbach are quite photogenic in the "cover image styled by Armani," as the credit has it. Indeed, Chen is all youthful elegance, and Eschenbach comes out looking a bit like Jean-Luc Picard. But don't hate them because they're beautiful. The performances come out distinctly above average, with a fresh take in which Chen avoids pouring on the standard sweetness for these works. The playing reveals a good deal of planning and cooperation between Chen and Eschenbach, who leads the rather oversized Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra, and the inclusion of the Sonata for piano and violin in A major, K. 305, at the end seems not an afterthought but a fully integrated part of the recital. The star of the show is Chen, whose consistently lively, imaginative detail work is enhanced by his own cadenzas. The church sound amplifies the excessive size of some of the orchestral sound, but he is undoubtedly an artist to watch even in a marketplace crowded with telegenic young violinists.
Mozart: Violin Concertos, K. 216 & 218; Violin Sonata, K. 305 Review
by James Manheim