Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 05/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've not been much of a fan of Andrew Manze's period approach. His wiry sound often puts me off and confirms the suspicions many have about period performance technique.
I am pleased to say in this release -- while I still haven't fully come to grips with Manze's style and tone -- his playing is warm and vibrant in this CD of Mozart's three best violin concertos.
Manze is totally involved in this CD and plays with sweetness and charm most of thie time, using plenty of oomph in the "Turkish" section of the final concerto, to rank with the better period performers in this music.
What really establishes this CD as a hit, however, is the remarkable playing and recording of the English Concert, a period band that has been linked to Trevor Pinnock. Their playing is special throughout with woodwind and horn soloes that melt the heart.
Their strings are also wonderful, sweeping and broad where need be, and light and delicious in the more delectable sections. The recording is consistent with the playing -- full and broad with a strong bass line and great depth in the sound field.
I had read good reviews of this CD and was skeptical based on my past reservations about the soloist. I was able to set aside most of my reservations, although there is the occasional hint of ugly tone displayed now and again during these performances. Never is it enough to stop or delay enjoyment of the music and this CD must now become the top-ranked period performance of these three concertos, besting what was the best recording -- that by and the Augustin Dumay and the Salzburg Camerata from 1998 on DG.
I continue to believe Pinchas Zukerman's account with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is the best solo playing of these concertos, but the completely inadequate playing and sound of the supporting band removes those CDs (it takes two CDs for these concertos instead of one) from the top rank.
People that still cling to the David Oistrakh school of Mozart may want to try Joshua Bell's recent reincarnated 4th and 5th concertos, re-released last year by London on a twofer with some other warhorse concertos. For everyone else, this CD will probably attain the top ranking until something better comes along."
Tom Leoni | Alexandria, Virginia United States | 12/20/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Writing this review is extremely difficult. When you are reviewing a CD containing instrumental concerti, you are essentially rating three different objects: the music, the orchestra and the soloist. So, coming up with a general "grade" that will do justice to all three is quite hard--especially when you like one of these three dimensions more than the other, as is the case here.
So I'll try to evaluate the three dimensions separately, then wrapping it up with a general observation.
The Music. Mozart's violin concertos are, in my mind, one of the greatest testaments to the instrument's multifaceted nature. Written in Mozart's early adulthood, they contain a variety of expressions ranging from the youthful and exhuberant to the introverted and melancholic; from the bold and fiery to the tender and delicate. Compared to Baroque violin concertos such as Vivaldi's or Corelli's, the phrases are longer and more lyrical; compared to concertos from the Romantic era, Mozart's have a quicker logical pace and are in general more optimistic in tone.
The Orchestra. The English Concert's performance is what really sets this CD apart. There is absoluetly nothing affected or manneristic in the way this orchestra brings Mozart's pages alive: this period-instruments orchestra doesn't hold anything back emotionally, while offering such a perfect balance between the string and the wind section as to rank as one of the very best I've heard. Tempi are just right, dynamics are varied and vibrant, and the character they impart the music is very real and expressive. Two big thumbs up to the English Concert in this recording.
The Soloist. This is where I had to deduct a couple stars, unfortunately. I am normally a fan of Andrew Manze, and I think that he has brought the Baroque/Classical violin to incredible heights, more than meriting the accolades he rightfully receives in association with his instrument and his incredible abilities. However, I find that in this recording he shows a propensity for tones that I would only describe as on the anemic side. The full dynamic range Manze displays so successfully in other CDs (e.g. in Tartini's great Devil's Trill recording) is only seldom heard here. In slow movements especially, the violin's voice often thins out into a barely audible flute-like whisper. If used as a special effect, this sound would be incredibly effective; but I find that employed so often--sometimes for entire movements--it becomes an affectation.
On the positive side, I really liked the cadenzas played by Manze, which I think are less distracting and more in style than those featured in other period-instrument performances of Mozart's concerti, such as that by Monica Huggett.
In conclusion, I still like this CD and I play it quite often. What I like most are the music (of course) and the great job done by the orchestra. But I think that Manze owes it to himself and to his many fans (of whom I am one) to come out with a different version of these concerti in the future--and one in which he makes more use of his great fire."
No need to look further!!
dalmatian | 04/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Whatever this man touches turns to gold, the competion now sounds incredibly staid. Thank you Mozart, and thank you Manze, glorious Harmonia Mundi engineering!"
Manze & Mozart fit nicely
Mark Hennicke | A stone's throw from Carnegie Hall | 01/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While I have always thought of Andrew Manze as a wonderful exponent of period instrument performance, I approached this recording of Mozart's K.216, K.218 & K.219 violin concertos with some trepidation. Being a fan of Trevor Pinnock's for over two decades, I could not imagine anyone else leading the English Concert. I need not have given the matter a second thought-Manze, Mozart and the English Concert are wonderful together. Manze's solo playing is brisk & lively when need be, as well as beautifully serene when the music demands a more thoughtful tone. He also does a splendid job leading what I consider to be the finest period performance ensemble currently recording-the reknowned English Concert. Manze & his players are also well served by the exceptional Harmonia Mundi sound. This cd is a treasure all the way around."
Joyful Recordings of Three Mozart Violin Concertos
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 03/02/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many performances and new recordings celebrated the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth in 2006. Among the best of these commemorative recordings was this release on the Harmonia Mundi label of Andrew Manze and the English Concert performing Mozart's violin concertos no. 3,4,and 5. The English Concert is a period instrument ensemble founded in 1972 by Trevor Pinnock. In 2003, Andrew Manze became the director of the ensemble, a position he held until 2007. A person of enviable and varied gifts, Manze was trained as a classical scholar as well as a musician. In this recording of Mozart, Manze plays the violin and conducts the ensemble. In addition, Manze composed his own cadenzas and wrote the detailed program notes that accompany the CD.
Manze and the English Concert offer a period reading of the three concertos with a feel of joyous swing and spontaneity. Mozart composed these works in Salzburg in 1775. The concertos are widely regarded as among the first of his adult works, and they have been recorded innumerable times. These works are far from virtuoso showpieces. Each of these concertos come to a quiet close. They display a feel of intimacy, variety, and the sheer pleasure of making music. In their vocal character, the concertos show a great operatic influence, as does much of Mozart.
The third concerto in G major, K. 216 opens with a lengthy allegro which features much close writing between the soloists and the winds. The best-known part of this work is the song-like middle movement, with an operatic melodic line for the soloist. As do the remaining concertos on this CD, the finale of this concerto is a rondo with several varied interludes. The G major is sometimes called the "Strasbourg" concerto because one of its interludes is based upon a Hungarian folk melody which appeared in a source called the "Strassburger." Manze's precise notes alert the listener to just where the folk melody appears.
The concerto in D major, K. 218, opens with a broad-based orchestral theme which is immediately contrasted with the quiet, restrained entrance of the solo violin. This concerto too features a lilting, songful middle movement, marked andante cantabile with a beautifully surprising concluding passage that Manze describes as "the most sublime passage [Mozart] had yet written". In the finale, the pensive rondo theme is interrupted several times by dance like diversions.
Mozart's fifth and last violin concerto was in A major, K. 219. This work opens with a lively, march-like orchestral statement, but when the violin makes its entrance, the music changes. Rather than virtuosity, Mozart transforms the original theme into music of a slow, reflective character. As the movement progresses, the opening material returns, with emphasis on it lightly swaying second theme. The concerto has a long, intricate adagio second movement. Because some of his contemporaries objected to the length of this movement, Mozart composed an alternative, the adagio, K. 261. However, Mozart's original version of the movement is invariably performed, as it is here. The rondo finale includes interludes that gave the piece the nickname "Turkish", similar to the "Turkish" finale to the A major piano sonata, K. 331. It is played here with a great deal of rhythmic force by both soloist and ensemble.
This recording is a delight. It is a standout in a field crowded with many good choices. It will be of most appeal to knowledgeable listeners who appreciate period performances.