Two rarely recorded Haydn violin concertos frame Rachel Podger’s performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat on this disc. Both concertos have only string accompaniment, here provided by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and a discreet harpsichord (the player’s name unaccountably omitted from the list of the orchestra personnel in the accompanying booklet). Rachel Podger has chosen to play both concertos on her own Pesarinius violin (1739) that she feels is most suited to the style of these works and few would disagree with her choice. Her agile and spirited playing in the outer movements is complemented by her pure cantilena in the slow movements. As is to be expected, both works are full of baroque idioms and, while neither presents Haydn at his most inventive, they make an enjoyable pairing.
Success was assured for Leila Josefowicz in her 1994 recording debut, for the 17-year-old violinist had performed these works several times before and had perfected her interpretations through constant preparation and presentation. Along with her boundless energy and self-confidence, Josefowicz's skills have placed her at the forefront of violin virtuosi, and this recording is a fascinating record of her precocity. Tchaikovsky's Classically oriented violin concerto is as bright a showpiece as exists in the repertoire. However, Josefowicz's mastery of the brilliant scales and arpeggios is almost secondary to her soulful shaping of the purely melodic material that is at the heart of this intensely lyrical piece.
Though it was the least well received by its intended dedicatee – Pablo de Sarasate – the third violin concerto of Camille Saint-Saëns has endured as one of his most popular concertos along with the A minor Cello Concerto and the Third Piano Concerto. The earlier two violin concertos, each written some 20 years before, are still noteworthy, lively concertos, but lack the same emotional impact and maturity of the seasoned B minor Concerto. What they may lack in depth is made up for with pyrotechnic virtuosic displays, perhaps explaining Sarasate's fondness. This Naxos album places the B minor Concerto first, ending with the C major Concerto, a program order that curiously seems to place the bigger "bang" finish at the beginning, closing with a less emphatic note.
For those who already appreciate Rachel Podger's unique brand of magic I'll just say that this return to recorded Bach is lovely and all that one could hope for. All that one looks for is here, and there is more. For those who are not familiar with Rachel Podger, she is a unique voice among violinists. She has absorbed the principles of late Baroque performance practice and made them a part of herself, so that the articulation and inflection of that rhetorical approach to music flows from her as a natural idiom of expression.
Uuno Klami write his Violin Concerto during World War II and it was premiered in Stockholm in 1944. The piece was lost during the war and Klami completed a new version in 1954. Klami is known for the strong influences he takes from French music and from Stravinsky. Known for his exceptionally wide repertoire and a great sense of musicality, Benjamin Schmid is one of the most versatile violinists of today. Described as "one of the most valuable of today's golden-age-violinists".