The Strad Issue: January 2006
Musicians: Leonidas Kavakos (violin/director) Camerata Salzburg
These artists brought the Third Concerto to this year’s Proms, where they were well received. The recordings, which are billed as live (though any audience is very quiet), were made in Athens in February.
Leonidas Kavakos plays exquisitely throughout, with admirable artistry, and on disc his small tone is no drawback – indeed in Mozart it may even be an advantage. His own cadenzas are tasteful, well wrought and not too long, although they do not add to the listening experience as those by, say, Joachim do.
He also provides stylish decorations, Eingänge and mini-cadenzas, including one early of the latter in the opening movement of the A minor Concerto, something I have heard that other fine stylist Antje Weithaus do. His tone is most appealing throughout and I gained almost as much pleasure from his playing as from that of Mintz (Avie).
With fine orchestral playing and excellent recorded sound, the set has few drawbacks. I do wonder if Kavakos’s leisurely approach to most of the opening movements will wear well on repetition. It involves a good deal of tempo flexibility and just occasionally a patch of rhythmic instability that a conductor could have prevented.
The D major Concerto K218 has a more up-tempo first movement. Here the trouble comes in the finale, where Kavakos’s penchant for relaxation causes a jolt each time the perky tempo primo returns. The unusual filler is a grand account of the great E flat Symphony that would be even grander if the second repeat in the finale were observed.