First published in the Guardian on 20 October, 2016
Mozart: Violin Concertos
Isabelle Faust / Il Giardino Armonico / Giovanni Antonini (Harmonia Mundi)
Mozart was 19 when he wrote his violin concertos, a cocky teenage genius. The music is astoundingly elegant but it also prances and preens, and I had wondered what Isabelle Faust — most refined and intellectually scrutinising of today’s violinists — would do with all that cheek and bravado. Turns out she makes it fly where it counts, and always on her own terms. This is the kind of recording whose booklet notes list the instrument pedegree of every single member of Il Giardino Armonico, which might seem precious if the ensemble playing wasn’t so fresh and buoyant, if it didn’t sound like every player was an alert and integral part of the whole. Giovanni Antonini conducts but the music seems to be led from everywhere. Meanwhile Faust’s touch is light, finespun, pristine — often her bow hardly glosses the strings, but there’s proper robustness to balance in the chunky, sparky cadenzas.