In what is becoming a veritable avalanche of Mozart violin concerto recordings, Andrew Manze manages to stand out. Leading the 22 members of the London-based English Concert in exceptionally affectionate and stylish performances of Mozart’s three major violin concertos, Manze not only proves a useful counterweight to modern performances of the cycle like Anne-Sophie Mutter’s recent wild ride for DG, but shows a gentler, more endearing side of the authentic practice approach.
In fact, I cannot remember such irresistibly graceful playing, especially in the areas where the soloist has the most interpretive freedom, elegantly stretching out “grace notes” and seemingly improvising at key transitional moments where Mozart obviously expected the performer to dress things up a bit. And while there is none of the aggressive attitude that often, for better or worse, afflicts original instrument performance, Manze makes it clear that he is a virtuoso and not merely leader of the band.
Adding to the enjoyment of the music making is Harmonia mundi’s handsome packaging, which includes a number of color illustrations and an extensive liner note by Mr. Manze in which lets us know that the cadenzas he plays (and composed) are not the ones he contributed to the recent Breitkopf & Härtel editions, whimsically invoking Victorian lepdopterists and Monty Python by way of explanation. The sound is outstanding, with felicitous timbre on the Baroque violin and a subtle but natural surround field.
– Laurence Vittes