“Beethoven…had integrated the ideals of liberty and emancipation born of the French Revolution. ‘There are and always will be thousands of princes; but there is only one Beethoven,’ he is supposed to have said. What an irony to celebrate his 250th birthday in a year when Europe has had to renounce its freedom to move around, to meet other people, to play together when you’re a musician!”
Insightful words from an insightful violinist. Liya Petrova recorded Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D, op. 61 with the Sinfonia Varsovia, under Jean-Jacques Kantorow – streaming at Spotify – in the fall of last year. Interestingly, both she and the orchestra seem to dig in a little harder than most ensembles do in the lushly nocturnal first movement. Sign of the times, maybe? And yet, the marching, distantly bellicose steadiness seems somewhat muted in the face of Petrova’s recurrently wistful, silken approach, at least outside of the most intricate, balletesque passages. It’s an effective game plan.
Movement two is languid and feels a little slow, which dovetails with the mood, Petrova a graceful comet making her way across a sky dotted with clouds in places. The sheer liveliness of the conclusion and occasional folksy phrasing validates her vision of this piece as a celebration of hope (or maybe Viennese beer gardens brimming with patrons on a weekend night).
In her liner notes, Petrova mentions the question of provenance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto in D major, K271a/K271i. From this perspective, the quirky cheer, matter-of-fact counterpoint and sudden major-to-minor changes sure sound like the genuine item. What’s ingenious about this recording is that Petrova engaged composer Jean-Frédéric Neuburger to write cadenzas since Mozart (or his nameless, imaginative protege) didn’t include them in the original score. Whether stately or impetuous, they’re idiomatically spot-on: Mozart would no doubt approve.
Movement one has violinist and conductor playing up a jaunty internal swing, an unexpected and welcome touch. The pulse continues almost suspensefully behind Petrova’s sinuous legato and puckish pizzicato in the second movement. The pouncing flurries and playful interweave between soloist and orchestra in the third provide a pleasant payoff. Much as the Beethoven here is every-hour-on-the-hour on what’s left of classical radio these days, the Mozart isn’t, and pairing the two was a rewarding choice.