The very first Mozart violin concerto I ever heard was the composer’s first, dating from 1773, when Mozart was just 17. The performance was by David Oistrakh, and I found it simply wondrous, especially the Adagio movement, with the violin arching with aching beauty over the orchestra. 

That was many years ago, when I was a very young teenager. It was the natural springboard to the other four violin concertos, which each mirror Mozart’s increasing maturity. I love that concerto still, and Richard Tognetti and the ACO capture perfectly its youthful brilliance and zest.

In fact, all three concertos heard here, plus the Rondo and Adagio, are presented in a way which confirms that our ACO is one of the very finest chamber orchestra ensembles performing anywhere in the world today. Particularly delightful in this recording are Richard Tognetti’s cadenzas, which seem to have grown organically from the source-material. There is an almost transcendental quality to some of this performance, such as in the Adagio of the Second Concerto, which can hardly be equalled anywhere on disc. 

This disc can be heard in the superior sound format SACD in either stereo or five-channel Surround modes, though there is also a CD layer making this suitable for conventional CD players. For me, though, SACD is the only way to go – there is a natural timbre and feeling of airy space in its reproduction which makes the period instruments heard here – with gut used for the string instruments – truly sing. 

Interview: Richard Tognetti

The Swedish label BIS Records wanted the complete catalogue of Mozart’s Violin concerti and I agreed this was worth doing. Then it was a matter of trying to put it into a context that I felt comfortable with, so playing on “hybrid” instruments, which is what other people called early instruments. My instrument actually pre-dates Mozart, but putting gut strings on it was important to me, as was getting the incredible sounds that only the early horns, oboes and flutes can produce. I have to call it a “hybrid orchestra” rather than a period orchestra. Christopher Hogwood calls it “historically informed performance practice” – but how can we know this is what the composer intended? I always thought it should be called “historically informed modern performance practice”.

By the same token I don’t bring a modern rebellious nature to the pieces. There’s no need to; there’s no room for it. To scratch away at Mozart and put in an anachronistic cadenza for me is just gratuitous and trendy. 

These pieces were written in a particular period of Mozart’s life within a short timeframe around 1775, and his musical and stylistic development is astonishing. Mozart became more minimalist as he evolved, and more operatic. I’m glad we waited until now to record these works. I have the Guarneri violin now, for a start. We also have great players in the orchestra, so it was the right thing to do at this time. Richard Tognetti

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