The Strad issue
Maxim Vengerov (violin/director) Lawrence Power (viola) UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra
This disc is the result of a unique collaboration between Maxim Vengerov and the orchestra involving a period of intensive study on a kibbutz in Israel. The orchestral accompaniments are polished, the balance is generally good, with the soloists well forward, and the recording is full and pleasing.
Vengerov’s readings of Mozart’s two D major violin concertos are technically immaculate, sensitive to detail and full of musical personality. His bowing is stylishly light in their outer movements and the solo passagework is articulated throughout with an energy and clarity that are winning. Tempos are well judged, phrases are thoughtfully shaped and little schmaltz is introduced. He adds characterful Eingänge in the finale of K218 and skilfully contrasts its various moods, while his embellishments of cadence-points in the Andante and finale of K211 are neatly realised. However, he spoils for me that magic moment towards the end of the slow movement of K218 (bars 85–86) by including unwanted elaboration, and the content and style of his cadenzas are of a different era.
Vengerov and violist Lawrence Power collaborate in a more romantic reading of Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante. They emphasise the maestoso character and dynamic contrasts of the first movement, the opening ritornello in particular seeming somewhat laboured, though their solo contributions are rich in timbre and generally well matched. Highlights include their flexible approach to the cadenzas and their vivacious finale, but their beautifully shaped dialogue in the Andante is scarred by their over-exaggerated sf–fp in bar 78, which is analogous to a dagger through the heart.