The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Uto Ughi (violin) I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone (conductor)
Composer: Beethoven, Spohr, Viotti

Uto Ughi gives warmly expressive and colourful readings of Beethoven’s two Romances, tender but purposeful and full of temperament. His central section of op.40 is on the measured side but flows sweetly, while its equivalent in op.50 is more urgently dramatic. Above all, his phrasing is sensitively shaped and his tone exceptionally pure and rounded; however, he has a tendency to play sharp and the recording is far too close for comfort.

Ughi’s account of Viotti’s Violin Concerto no.3 has a freshness, vigour and sensitivity that are winning. Although not flawless, his performance of the opening Maestoso has warmth, vitality and refinement, occasionally veering towards a Romantic approach with some voluptuous shifts, impassioned vibrato and his dazzling, unstylish cadenza. He is admirably expressive and lyrical in the central Adagio cantabile, but seems technically stretched in some of the testing passagework in the Rondeau finale.

Spohr composed his Eighth Violin Concerto with the aim of currying favour with opera-loving audiences during one of his Italian concert tours. Its solo passages are tailor-made for Ughi’s singing style of delivery and he plays its dramatic recitatives with real meaning, adorning thematic material with tasteful decorations and playing this essentially single-movement work’s rhapsodic sections with appropriate freedom. He plays substitute to opera’s lyric soprano in the Andante and performs the final Allegro moderato with dignity, fire and virtuosity. The cadenza, stunning in its impact, is succeeded by a vigorous orchestral summation. The small forces of I Solisti Veneti give incisively responsive support throughout.