There are countless recordings of Mozart's three familiar violin concertos, the third, fourth, and fifth, grouped together. There aren't so many in the audiophile category, however, for the modest instrumental forces of these pieces don't give engineers too many opportunities to strut their stuff. This release from the small Gramola label in Austria succeeds in putting an unusual sonic profile on the music, whose textural contrasts (as for example in the ethnic episodes in the rondo finale of the Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 218) emerge quite vividly. In general, however, the news is not so good. Violinist Thomas Albertus Irnberger and the chamber orchestra Spirit of Europe seem to be trying to apply the insights of the historical-performance movement; Irnberger uses a 1795 Tourte bow on a 1656 Stainer violin, essays the quasi-improvisational cadenza material of Paul Badura-Skoda, and makes unorthodox tempo choices, especially in the leisurely finales. These are all potentially good ideas, and so is the use of a fortepiano continuo, whose presence as late as the 1790s is attested to by the part provided for it in one of Haydn's symphonies. But the execution is flawed. You can hardly hear the fortepiano behind the wall of sound provided by the orchestral violins, and it's hard to know whether that's the result of the engineering or just the loud, brittle sound of the strings themselves. It may be that there are listeners whose conception of the work will match that of these musicians, but for others the sweetness and grace that define the profusion of melody in these creations of the young Mozart will largely be absent. There are many Mozart pieces in which a dry approach yields dividends, but these are surely toward the bottom of the list. Sample well to see if this is for you, for there is an abundance of other choices.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 3 in G major, K216|
|Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 4 in D major, K218|
|Concerto for violin and Orchestra No. 5 in A major, K219|