Performer: Viktoria Mullova
Orchestra: Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique
Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Size: 267 MB
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Violin Concerto in D major, op.61
1. I. Allegro ma non troppo 23’10
2. II. Larghetto – 8’16
3. III. Rondo 9’26
Violin Concerto in E minor, op.64
4. I. Allegro molto appassionato – 12’53
5. II. Andante 7’06
6. III. Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace
A period-style triumph for Mullova
I’m not sure the previous reviews have expressed just how unique this recording actually is. Viktoria Mullova, one of the most brilliant of Russian violinists, has devoted herself wholeheartedly to period performances, the first and only great virtuoso to do that. As a result, we get playing of lustrous refinement, with every aspect of style reconsidered and filtered through historical ears. Mullova’s vibrato is much tempered, dynamics swell and fall away, pitch is lower, strings are gut isntead of metal, etc.
It would all be academic if Mullova didn’t have something to say. But both works are full of new ideas, not to mention fresh cadenzas by Ottavio Dantone. I doubt there are eight bars in a row that Mullova hasn’t rethought, but to give a general idea, her Beethoven is calm and serene, taken at normal tempos (she and Gardiner closely examined old scores, so apparently Beethoven didn’t mark the concerto faster than we are used to), but by taking off a minute from each movement, coupled with the fresh, lean sound of the period orchestra, this reading sounds fairly swift.
Gardiner conducts in his usual foursquare style, but give him credit, he is a period authority, and his accompaniment has style. It’s also roughly energetic at times–no slack rhythms or underplayed dynamics. The orchestra’s bold tutti interjectins are powerful enough to give a strong contrast with the sweet, sometimes dreamy solo line of Beethoven’s writing. Five stars without a doubt.
Where the Beethoven violin concerto has suffered from being played too solemnly, the Mendelssohn is often too quick and glib. Mullova and Gardiner take note that the first movement is marked ‘appassionato,’ attacking it more strongly than the Beethoven, in fact. In all three movements the tuttis swell grandly, and tempos are slow enough to add to the overall intensity. For once Mendelssohn isn’t the angelic prodigy. Mullova adds more vibrato for expessive purposes, but she’s quite restrained compared to, say, Heifetz. The finale is marked by an outspoken give-and-take between soloist and orchestra.
In all, this is a triumph for Mullova and the best period violin recording I’ve ever heard. Note: the notes warn us that Mullova and Gardiner have inserted some alternative versions here and there in both works–usually no moe than a turn of phrase or change of pitch. But if you’re familiar with these concertos, you’ll known the changes when you hear them.