MOZART: Violin Concertos 3, 4 and 5 – Arabella Steinbacher, violin/ Festival Strings of Lucerne/ Daniel Dodds – PENTATONE SACD (5.0) PTC 5186 479, 78:10 (4/29/14) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Pentatone offers us a fine SACD multichannel disc of the Mozart Violin Concertos Nos. 3, 4 & 5 with the Festival Strings of Lucerne conducted by Daniel Dodds.

Ms. Steinbacher is a superb violinist. Born in Munich in 1981 to a German father and a Japanese mother, Ms. Steinbacher began studying the violin at the age of three. Her mother is a professionally trained singer who came to Germany from Japan to study music. Among Steinbacher’s numerous recording honors are 2 ECHO-Klassik Awards (considered to be the German equivalent of the Grammy) “Les Chocs du Mois” from Le Monde de la Musique, and two German Record Critics Awards as well as the prestigious Editors Choice Award from Gramophone magazine.

All three concertos are familiar to music aficionados. The Violin Concerto No. 3 was composed when Mozart was 19 in 1775. That year he also composed the 4th and 5th Concertos. They have the exuberance of youth, yet they are fully-developed and mature pieces. Many composers would have been satisfied with one concerto, but the young Mozart composed five.

The performances here are riveting and technically as flawless as one could hope for. The Pentatone 5-channel recording is excellent, with sharp imaging of the orchestra, and an excellent sense of the hall, which was the Kirche Obserstrass in Zurich. I don’t think there is anything more to wish for. I compared the CD layer with the SACD, and to my ear the strings had just that extra amount of air and high frequency lift that the SACD technology allows. Dynamics are excellent, and the sound emerges from a velvety smooth noiseless background.

Pentatone is always a label worth noting. Founded in 2001 the company has been a champion of multi-channel recording of classical music, and recently launched high quality downloads.

Ms. Steinbacher and Pentatone are an excellent match for musical and sonic excellence. The music and the recording are a treat. Recommended!

—Mel Martin