Friday, 6 May 2011

CD Review (The Straits Times, May 2011)

MOZART Violin Concertos No.3 & 5 / Sinfonia Concertante for Violin & Viola (K.364)
RICHARD TOGNETTI, Violin / Australian Chamber Orchestra
BIS SACD-1754 / ***

The sometimes contentious issue of how much vibrato, or how little, should musicians employ when playing music from the classical era comes to a head in this new recording of Mozart violin concertos. The crack Australian Chamber Orchestra is not touted as a period instrument band but nevertheless attempts to emulate the lithe and light sound of the authentic movement. As a group they sound energetic and vibrant, but its leader Richard Tognetti’s solos are the major flashpoint.

Shorn of any discernable vibrato, his 1743 Guarneri del Gesu violin sounds thin and wiry, with the solo part rendered anaemic, puny and almost inconsequential. This is a pity as he is an undoubted virtuoso with an impressive technical facility. This “deficiency” in sonority however does not affect violist Christopher Moore who partners Tognetti in the Sinfonia Concertante (K.364), which makes for some queasy listening. But was this what Mozart, himself a string virtuoso in his younger days, would have liked? Who knows? It all boils down to personal choice. Give these pair of ears the good old-fashioned “big sound” of Oistrakh, Grumiaux or Perlman any day.

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