Philippe Graffin, Mozart (2014)


Philippe Graffin, Nobuko Imai

Philippe Graffin proves himself an equally eminent Mozartian on this release, a two-disc set with the leading Japanese violist Nobuko Imai. In the sprightly Sinfonia Concertante, two delightful Duos, the Third Concerto plus an Adagio and a Rondo, the multi-tasking Graffin takes on the roles of soloist, chamber musician, director, and composer of his own cadenzas. He is backed by the versatile Brabant Philharmonic Orchestra of Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The stylish packaging features another typical twist by the resourceful Graffin, who commissioned leading journalist and novelist Jessica Duchen to write a short story for the booklet.
What status should we assign to an artist’s youthful productions? This question arises when we listen to the first three works on this program: the Concerto KV 216 (1775), the Adagio KV 261 (1776), and the Rondo KV 373 (1781, a bit later, of course, but stylistically akin to the preceding compositions). Commentators have usually compared them to the later, more mature concertante works, in particular to those for piano, taking the opportunity to contrast the “galant” freshness of the former with the expressive power of the latter. Critics also dwell on all the qualities that Mozart’s experience in the realm of opera later contributed to his powers of expression. And indeed, a comparison between these early works and the Sinfonia Concertante, written around the same time as Zaïde, confirms this opinion. Not, of course, that Zaïde is Die Entführung aus dem Serail, but nevertheless, it was the first libretto which really excited Mozart’s interest, as witnessed by his new preoccupation with the dramaturgy of the piece. It signals a major change in his approach to the classical style. And this exposure to the world of the theatre was to have a direct influence on Mozart’s concertante writing, not only because it would lead to a renewal of the dynamics of the concerto form, but also because it would allow him to reassess the relationship between soloist and orchestra. And this, above all, is what demonstrates the distance between these two “youthful” works on one hand and the Sinfonia Concertante and the two Duets on the other.

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Philippe Graffin

Philippe Graffin has established an indisputable reputation for his interpretations of the French and English repertoire. He has rediscovered original settings of Chausson’s Poème and Ravel’s Tzigane and has championed the concerto of Coleridge-Taylor which he has recorded and performed at the BBC Proms. A number of composers have written works for him including Vytautas Barkauskas, Philippe Hersant, David Matthews, Yves Prin and Rodion Shchedrin.

As concerto soloist, Philippe has performed with orchestras such as The Philharmonia, BBC Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken, the Residentie Orkest, Gothenburg Symphony, Orchestra di Padova et del Veneto, St Petersburg Philharmonic, and Georges Enesco Philharmonic, Bucharest.

Philippe’s discography includes an early recording with Lord Menuhin and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and many world premieres and rarities. He is a highly sought after chamber musician and featured on BBC 4’s documentary ‘Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma’ in 2012, performing Delius’s ‘Legende’ for violin and piano. 

He is founder and artistic director of the “Consonances” chamber music festival of St Nazaire, France.

He plays a Domenico Busano violin, made in Venice, 1730. He is currently guest professor at the Royal Conservatorium Brussels and at the conservatory in The Hague.

Nobuko Imai

Nobuko Imai is considered to be one of the most outstanding viola players of our time. After finishing her studies at the Toho School of Music, Yale University and the Juilliard School, she won the highest prizes at both the Munich and the Geneva international competitions.
Formerly a member of the esteemed Vermeer Quartet, Ms. Imai now combines a distinguished international solo career appearing with orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw, Vienna Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic, London Symphony, the BBC orchestras, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Boston Symphony, and the Chicago Symphony, along with teaching at the Conservatory in Amsterdam and Geneva, where she is a Professor.
A keen chamber musician, Miss Imai has often performed with such distinguished names as Gidon Kremer, Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Andràs Schiff, Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman. In addition she has toured with Midori, performing chamber music, while further collaborators include pianists Ronald Brautigam, and accordionist Mie Miki for recitals. Her trio combinations include con- certs with Pamela Frank and Clemens Hagen, and Mihaela Martin and Frans Hemerson. In 2003, along with Mihaela Martin, Stephan Picard and Frans Helmerson, Nobuko Imai for- med the Michelangelo Quartet, of which the debut concerts at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 2003 were met with great success leading to many engagements in halls such as Theatre des Champs-Elysees and the Tonhalle, Zurich, and at festivals such as Edinburgh, Naantali and the Tokyo edition of La Folle Journée de Nantes.

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Philippe Graffin, Mozart (2014)


Philippe Graffin, Nobuko Imai


Their playing in the Duos and Sinfonia concertante reveals not only refined technical finish but a just combination of intellectual erudition and emotional involvement. Good to very good sound with noticeable variations in transfer levels.

Nalen Anthoni

    Le Monde de la Musique / November 2007

"Balanced and luminous: these words best describe this recording. In the orchestral works, including the Violin Concerto no 3 and the Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, one marvels equally at the remarkably elegant solos as at the gracious, yet virile orchestral playing. The balance is so well dosed that it seems as if this music, so often stiff was only ever meant for dancing. Philippe Graffin unveils for us a Mozart familiar and yet unexpected; surprisingly poised and imaginative. The same chemistry is found in the second CD where Philippe Graffin and Nobuko Imai, who have worked together for many years, play the two Duos for violin and viola K423 and K424 with total simplicity. There is no need for more: sensitivity and sobriety know how to deliver this music of all its charm and freshness."


Pleasure's peak is reached on this two disc set with Mozart's violin/viola duos, played with sparkling panache by the French violinist Graffin and Nobuko Imai. Graffin's forceful playing also brings smiles in the third violin concerto. But the recording dulls the Brabant Orchestra, and the violin/viola Sinfonia Concertante can drag.

    The Guardian

Graffin is a fine violinist, though, and his playing alongside Imai's immaculate expressiveness in the slow movement is wonderfully natural, just as their give-and-take in the two Duos that make up the second disc is perfectly judged. Andrew Clements

More impressive are the works with viola. In the Sinfonia Concertante, after an alert, full-sounding opening tutti, Graffin and Nobuko Imai steal in perfectly for their first phrase. The Duos make a hefty bonus on the second disc, and are performed with a flexibility that never becomes flabby. Martin Cotton

    BBC Music Magazine

In the Sinfonia Concertante... Graffin and Nobuko Imai steal in perfectly for their first phrase. ... they are clearly listening to each other, and responding. Imai's burnished tone is, as ever, a delight, especially at the bottom of the range.


Holland's Brabant Philharmonic Orchestra reacts with admirable sensitivity to the unusual readings asked of it.... The sound is warm and transparent....

James Manheim

Philippe Graffin, Mozart (2014)


Philippe Graffin, Nobuko Imai

Digital Converters: Meitner AD/ DA
Mastering Engineer: Tom Peeters
Mastering Equipment: KEF Reference series 107
Microphones: Bruel & Kjaer, 4003, Neumann, Schoeps, modified by Rens Heijnis,
Mixing Board: Rens Heijnis custom made
Producer: Tom Peeters
Recording Engineer: Tom Peeters
Recording location: Muziekgebouw Frits Philips, Eindhoven The Netherlands
Recording Software: Pyramix
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD64

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COBRA0046: Philippe Graffin, Mozart
01:34:00   Select quality & channels above
Violin Concerto no.3 in G major K216, Allegro
00:08:00   N/A
Violin Concerto no.3 in G major K216, Adagio
00:06:00   N/A
Violin Concerto no.3 in G major K216, Allegro-Rondo
00:05:00   N/A
Adagio for violin and orchestra K261
00:06:00   N/A
Rondo in C major for violin and orchestra K373
00:05:00   N/A
Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola K364, Allegro maestoso
00:12:00   N/A
Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola K364, Andante
00:10:00   N/A
Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola K364, Presto
00:05:00   N/A
Duo for violin, viola No.1 in G major K423, Allegro
00:10:00   N/A
Duo for violin, viola No.1 in G major K423, Adagio
00:03:00   N/A
Duo for violin, viola No.1 in G major K423, Rondeau - Allegro
00:04:00   N/A
Duo for violin, viola No.2 in B flat K424, Allegro
00:10:00   N/A
Duo for violin, viola No.2 in B flat K424, Andante cantabile
00:03:00   N/A
Duo for violin, viola No.2 in B flat K424, Thema (con variazioni) - Andante grazioso
00:07:00   N/A

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