The Strad Issue: Febraury 2011
Description: Mozart performed with a beguiling 'magic touch'
Musicians: Richard Tognetti (violin/director) Christopher Moore (viola) Australian Chamber Orchestra
Composer: Mozart

It is staggering just how far the orchestral realisation of Classical scores on modern instruments has come in little more than 30 years. Gone are the days of restrained, gallant politeness. Here every phrase, texture and dynamic shading possesses a vibrant quality. If once upon a time orchestral players could almost sit into the backs of their chairs in this repertoire, these fine Australian players sound metaphorically on the edges of their seats (the violins and violas actually play standing up), responding with affectionate subtlety to each tiny interpretative inflection.

What is particularly notable about Richard Tognetti’s playing, apart from his supreme poise and velvety sound, is his chamber-scale naturalness. Turning traditional rhetoric on its head, this is less about a lone voice competing with massed forces than a soloist singing with a radiant cantabile, set against a bold canvass of shimmering orchestral colours. The complete lack of ostentatious virtuosity in the outer movements is highly compelling, yet it is the rapt simplicity of the slow movements where Tognetti’s magic touch really comes into its own. The finest piece here, the violin and viola Sinfonia concertante, is also beguilingly played, but here I wondered whether the music’s profound expressive power was a shade underplayed. The smooth, purring quality of the engineering is enhanced still further in surround sound.