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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
Symphony No. 41 in C Major (The Jupiter) – (1791)
Clarinet Concerto in A Major K.622 – (1791)
Bassoon Concerto in B Flat Major K.191 – (1774)
Jack Brymer (clarinet), Gwydion Brooke (Bassoon)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Sir Thomas Beecham.
recorded in Studio No.1, Abbey Road, London (Symphony - 26,28/3/57 and Bassoon Concerto – 18/12/58) and Salle Wagram, Paris (Clarinet Concerto – 14,15/5/58), ADD STEREO.
EMI CDM5 67596-2 [79.49]

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More classic Mozart in the Great Recordings of the Century series of recordings from EMI. Here we have Mozart’s first concerto (Bassoon) and his last concerto and symphony.

There are many recordings of the Clarinet Concerto in the catalogue, and many are first rate. Illustrious soloists such as De Peyer, King, Leister, Meyer and Schmidl, etc. have recorded it, and in fact Brymer has also recorded the Concerto with Marriner and Davis in addition to Beecham. What we have here is the then first clarinet of the Royal Philharmonic playing with the orchestra under the most famous collaboration of conductor with this orchestra in all its history. The performance is extremely relaxed, as are both of Brymer’s other two recordings, but what we have here is what I consider is the best. Brymer and Beecham, as two equal partners, play this wonderful concerto from the heart, and EMI’s recording, always pretty good, has come up as fresh as new paint in this new re-mastering.

When we come to the next piece, Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, we have another soloist taken from the desks of the Royal Philharmonic. Once again, soloist, conductor and orchestra play the work as one. Such was Mozart’s genius that we can enjoy this early concerto as much as the much later works, as a result of the care and sheer joy that is clearly evident in the combined playing. The balance of the soloist against the orchestra is nigh on perfect, and the location of the recording (Paris or London) gives a truly outstanding timbre, given Beecham’s long experience of recording in both locations with his EMI engineering teams.

The Jupiter Symphony, (first on the disc), displays Beecham’s conducting of his beloved orchestra in a work which he loved through and through. Time and time again we hear tiny details in the phrasing and articulation which often get smoothed over in other (just as famous) performances.

As is normal with Beecham’s Mozart performances, some of the tempi can be a little shocking, particularly for those people weaned on period performances. What we have on this disc is "Big Band Mozart" with a vengeance – smooth phrasing, slow tempi particularly in the minuet, substantial string sonorities, solid warm woodwind etc. etc. This must seem to add up to a particularly bad mixture, given how current playing techniques have developed. For those collectors who have not heard Beecham in this repertoire, I urge you to listen carefully to these performances. This is because they exude a vitality and joy in the music making which is not only completely satisfying, but also remains in the memory long after other less well thought out or played performances.

Before this issue, the most recent incarnation of these concerti performances were coupled with the Violin Concerto No. 3, played by Gioconda de Vito. I would rate the current disc vastly superior, mainly because of the coupling. The re-mastering has clarified the sound somewhat, but the level of improvement is less than some of the earlier EMI recordings where there is much more needed to be done.

Go ahead and purchase with confidence – not only do you get a superb trio of works and performances, you also get deluxe packaging and a superb set of notes at mid-price.

John Phillips

 


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