No composer has written ‘entertainment
music’ of such lasting quality as Mozart. Compositions
that may or may not have been intended to be listened to
by an audience have secured lasting repertory positions,
despite their unpromising provenance of entertaining the
aristocracy at dinner or at play.
The best known piece among this collection
is of course the string serenade known as Eine kleine
Nachtmusik, composed for an unknown occasion in Vienna
during 1787. Savall’s performance stands up well, with
expertly phrased balancing of the subtle part-writing,
and a real freshness in the interpretation of what can
too easily seem hackneyed music. The ‘authentic’ string
sound is pleasing too, as it is throughout the whole programme.
In the Serenata Notturna, a Salzburg
composition from ten years previously, the addition of
a timpani part makes a telling difference to the music.
It is well handled but the over-resonant acoustic encourages
the view that there is a want of precision in the ensemble.
This is a problem in all the other music too, and it is
difficult to know whether the venue or the engineers are
too blame. In the Serenata the music is far from
unsatisfactory in its impact, particularly in the engagingly
rhythmic finale, when the subtle counterpoints of the violas
really make their mark.
The beautifully contrived three-movement Notturno,
one of Mozart’s most engaging Salzburg compositions, is
arguably the best of all among this collection. The gentle
pacing of the first movement allows the personality of
each melodic ingredient to make its point. All credit to
Savall for phrasing the music with care and attention to
detail, and perhaps for taking due account of the resonant
acoustic as well.
The Musical Joke is a vibrant and at times compelling
piece, and the prominence given to the enthusiastically
dissonant horns makes this a particularly compelling experience,
at once jarring on the ear and engaging on the mind. Again
the spacious and reverberant acoustic adds a special dimension
to the effect, and some listeners will be more tolerant
of this than others. The same basic issue, in fact, will
apply to the whole disc.