New Classical Tracks: Bright and buoyant Mozart

Giuliano Carmignola/Claudio Abbado/Orchestra Moza
Giuliano Carmignola/Claudio Abbado/Orchestra Mozart
Album cover

In 1974, during the semifinals of the Tchaikovksy Competition in Moscow, a young Italian violinist completely wowed a group of musicians who happened to be sitting in the audience.

Those musicians, who were members of the Orchestra della Scala, went back to their hotel room and told their musical director, Claudio Abbado about this amazing young performer.

A few months later, Abbado called that violinist and gave him his first big break by inviting him to play with The Orchestra della Scala.

Thirty years later Giuliano Carmignola received a fax from Abbado, inviting him to take part in a fantastic new Mozart project. Carmignola thought it was a joke, so he didn't respond right away. Eventually the violinist made the phone call which reunited him with his mentor.

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On this new collection of Mozart violin concertos, Claudio Abbado conducts his newly formed orchestra named for the composer. The Orchestra Mozart his a high-energy group of young, gifted musicians who play for the joy of making music.

"It was all spontaneous and natural," Carmignola said of his first recording of Mozart violin concertos.

Artistically, he and Abbado were tapped into the same wave length. Abbado agreed with Carmignola's choice of bright, quick tempos which require crisp articulation on behalf of the young players of the Orchestra Mozart.

Mozart had already written two serious operas by the time he composed his first violin concerto at age 17. That means you have to bring the Mozart of the operas into these concertos, Giuliano Carmignola explains.

Each movement has its own character and is packed with emotion. The first movement of this concerto is overflowing with joyful melodies. The passionate adagio is filled with a sense of longing. The finale gives both the orchestra and the soloist a chance to sparkle as they sail through rapid scales and arpeggios.

Carmignola's detailed phrasing in the first movement of the Concerto No. 3 is very animated. The Orchestra Mozart plays along, breathing and pausing with the soloist.

Certain passages also have to be more theatrical because Mozart's concertos were written with an operatic flare.

Carmignola's violin delicately sings its way through the slow movement of the third concerto. Mozart wrote all of his violin concertos for the Salzburg Court Orchestra, which featured two oboes, two horns and strings. In the adagio of the third concerto, muted violins and violas are accompanied by pizzicato cellos and basses.

Mozart also substitutes flutes for the oboes in this movement, allowing a broader range of colors to blossom.

The solo cadenzas for each violin concerto on this recording came from Franco Gulli, one of Giuliano Carmignola's favorite teachers. Carmginola's very controlled vibrato in the first movement of the concerto No. 4 completely exposes his technical brilliance.

This complete cycle of violin concertos is Carmignola's first Mozart recording, and the first recording on period instruments for Abbado and his Orchestra Mozart.

The youthful exuberance of this legendary conductor comes through in the lively tempos, his detailed attention to phrasing and articulation, and the overall boyant textures he creates with the Orchestra Mozart, and his protege Giuliano Carmignola.

If you're seeking a recording that offers a fresh, energetic look at Mozart's violin concertos, this is it.