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Extraordinary Mozart.

June 2, 2008 at 4:54 AM

I’m not up to date on all of today’s great players (sorry James, Julia and Rachel) but my fastest growing collection of a particular player is Mr. Vengerov. Aside from a technique that is just staggering he just seems to be one of the most natural and inspiring musicians around. But of the recordings I have listened to so far (Paginini, Beethoven Spring, Lalo, Dvorak) he has teetered on the brink of madness. A brown rice diet and prunes are clearly called for. As I said in a recent discussion of his erroneously reported retirement , he does seem to have ideas beyond the scope of the violin. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he gave up simply because it is hard to see where he can go on from now. More gigantic, more lunatic? How much more expressiveness can one take? To tell the truth, I’d really like to see him form a piano trio.
I had been putting off buying his recording of Mozart 4, 2 and the concertante because I was afraid that if he wasn’t able to scale down his huge personality and dynamism it would just be a gross caricature. I finally gave in yesterday and have listened to no.4 a few times. The disc has a couple of interesting features. First of all there is no conductor. The orchestra and soloist play with wonderful unanimity with Vengerov standing right in the middle of them. Second, the concertos come after the concertante. I don’t know if that was intentional but I suspect for most big names in this coupling we violinists tend to listen to the concerto (first on the disk) and then ignore the concertante as a sort of oddball poor relation. This order seems like a well thought out statement and it is an excellent reflection on Mr. Vengerovs determination to share the limelight.
Mozart 4 comes as a relief! The tempo is rather slow. The result is a loss of the `Military` character of the first movement which has on occasion led to bit being nicknames as such. For me this is a slight miscalculation. However, Vengerov`s determination to take a more feminine approach with extreme focus on finding expressive meaning in every note produces one of the most moving demonstrations of cantabile violin playing one could wish for. It is worth studying over and over to hear what he is doing with the bow and vibrato. Vengerov has always, to my mind, had the knack of looking at a phrase and somehow letting it appear magically with its own unique character. Everything is a kind of organic growth. On occasion, when all these wonderful individual idea have not hung together the result has been less than a coherent whole. In this music he does keep sight of the wood for the trees. The slow movement tempo is beautifully judged. The last movement is the weakest in my opinion. He chooses a very slow tempo again and the Sfz marking in the opening spectator are so over blown from the orchestra (and presumably him) its not at all charming. Pretty much the only example of where my fears about exaggeration were realized. Vengerov writes his own cadenzas which are tasteful, interesting and played stunningly. A disk that all violinists can learn from. (and everybody else if they so wish)

Here's some Youtube, Vengerov on Mozart, about this recording, added by Laurie:

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 2, 2008 at 6:01 AM
anybody know what an `opening spectator`is?
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 2, 2008 at 6:12 AM
Don’t know but thanks for yet another great review, Buri! I too find Vengerov very inspiring and a lot of fun to watch as well as to listen to. In terms playing Mozart concerti without conductor, AS Mutter did that as well on her Mozart DVDs. It becomes a norm now? The way Mutter ‘conducting’ was minimal – just a few nods and smile. I can’t even hear the annoying whatmacallit breathing you often hear other soloists make – the sniffy sound before each phrase to give other the cue.
From William Wolcott
Posted on June 2, 2008 at 1:56 PM
Great stuff, Buri. Thanks. Great playing.

Regarding the 'wildness' etc..... maybe he's had too many prunes!

From Anne Horvath
Posted on June 2, 2008 at 6:59 PM
An "opening spectator" is one half of a pair of two-toned ladies shoes that are so old and worn that they are beginning to fall apart.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on June 2, 2008 at 10:28 PM
ah. That explains it.
From Corwin Slack
Posted on June 4, 2008 at 12:08 AM
The guy is musically kinky and he aspires to the bombasity of Isaac Stern. This clip completed my turn off to Maxim Vengerov
From Mathias B
Posted on June 4, 2008 at 2:36 PM
An opening spectator may be an innocent listener hit by heavy sforzati.

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