So much of Mozartís
life and work is the stuff of myth and
legend that it is sometimes easy to
forget that he was a practical working
composer, dependent upon his music to
keep food on the table. This mythological
status tends to overrate some of the
more workaday pieces in the Mozart canon.
Listeners and critics alike overuse
superlatives to describe even the most
mundane of his works. There are certainly
works of pure genius - the G minor piano
quartet, the last symphonies and the
da Ponte operas jump to mind - and there
are pieces like those on this attractive
release that are pleasant for their
own sake, if not particularly profound.
Opening with a charming
march, Alexander Janiczek tips his hat
to performance practice by introducing
the Serenade in D, the so-called Andretter,
with the light traveling music that
would have led the musicians and listeners
to and from the performing venue. Composed
in 1773 for the end of year celebrations
at the university in Salzburg, Mozart
was abroad with his father when this
music was first composed. Scored for
a fairly large orchestra including trumpets
and a full wind complement, this is
a work of varying moods and yet it never
really leaves the realm of the light-hearted.
Maestro Janiczek proves able as both
soloist and conductor, turning in a
performance of abounding grace and charm.
The string playing is silky and elegant
and the winds are very nicely balanced
in the mix.
There then follows
a handful of shorter works for violin
and orchestra, all of which were substitute
movements for one of Mozartís five violin
concertos. They are tuneful and pleasant,
seemingly conceived as entertainments
rather than profound musical statements.
Again, Janiczek proves to be a most
tasteful soloist, generally letting
the music speak for itself, and never
putting virtuosity in the path of elegance.
The final work is significant
in its orchestration, bearing witness
to the young composerís recent acquaintance
with an instrument that was to become
very important in later works, the clarinet.
In this charming divertimento he relies
more on the instrumentís sparkling upper
register. The rich deeper tones would
have to wait until the Concerto K. 622
and the Quintet K 581. This is also
a work in which we see Mozartís transformation
from boy wonder to mature composer.
The ideas are original and the music
is full of the kinds of cadential formulae
and melodic contour which we now know
as signature Mozart.
The SCO and Janiczek
take few risks in these performances.
Their readings are fairly straight-forward
and predictable, yet at the same time
well-proportioned and graceful. If you
are looking for some great new revelation
you wonít find it in either the performances
or the music itself. What you will find
is more than an hour of perfectly listenable
music, perhaps best used by modern listeners
as the background and party music it
was meant to be in Mozartís day.
Sound quality is absolutely
clear, well balanced with a fine presence
of sound throughout the dynamic spectrum.
Lovely packaging and concise, pertinent
notes by Duncan Druce add even more
merit to an already fine product.