One of the more flamboyant characters in Paris in the latter half of the 19th century, Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de St. George (1739?-1799) was known as a championship fencer and a brilliant violinist. It is not a surprise then that his violin concertos exhibit a swaggering solo part. What you won't find is much motivic development. What you will discover are gorgeous melodies, lots of them. Although they populate all his work, they especially saturate his lyrical middle movements, one of which appears to be the basis for the haunting oboe theme from the popular BBC series, "Foyle's War".
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.