The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Rachel Podger (violin) Pavlo Beznosiuk (viola) Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Composer: Haydn, Mozart

Though Haydn was surrounded by virtuoso players in the court orchestra of the wealthy Esterházy family, his early violin concertos do not make excessive demands of the soloist. The eloquent slow movement of the Fourth and its bustling finale have much to commend them, but the highly attractive thematic material of the C major work is certainly the more pleasing.

I was expecting the very distinctive sound of period instruments here, only to find that the warm glow of the acoustic scarcely distinguishes this from a modern instrument recording. Rachel Podger is the highly impressive soloist, nimble in the outer movements and suitably lyric in the central adagios. Perfectly balanced rapport with the Age of Enlightenment is a distinguishing factor: the potent dialogue between soloist and orchestra invokes a greater feeling of strength in the outer movements than in any of my previously preferred recordings.

That strength continues into a virile reading of Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante, with the outer movements fast and fresh if at times a little breathless. The central movement never unduly lingers, and the pair of Antonio Stradivari instruments, well annotated in the booklet, perfectly complement one another. The recording, generous in the bass, is most agreeable.