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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    



MOZART?! Volume 7
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91)
Adagio in B flat, K484a. Serenade in B flat, K371a, ‘Gran Partita’ (arr. Gleissner).

Collegium Classicum
Recorded in the Stadthalle, Wuppertal on June 1st (Adagio), March 26th-30th, 2001 (Serenade) [DDD]
Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold MDG301 1077-2 [60.01]


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The Collegium Classicum is a formidable ensemble. Their playing is always stylish and they react to each other in true chamber-music fashion, yet each player seems to supply solos with character aplenty. Couple this with an exemplary recording, and surely you have a winner?

Well, that rather depends on the actual music they are playing. The Adagio in B flat, K484a, is scored for two clarinets and three basset horns and was probably composed towards the end of 1785, possibly for the Freemasons. It is a most beautiful piece which is given a highly sensitive performance here. As will be seen, it may well be the only reason to spend good money on this disc.

Franz Gleissner (1759-1818), a minor composer who is better remembered for his involvement with early lithography in music publishing, arranged Mozart’s Gran Partita for twelve wind instruments (including basset horns) and double bass as a ‘Sinfonie concertante’ for a more manageable mixed ensemble which includes two violins, viola and cello. In doing so, he softened the edges which make Mozart's original so compelling (outdoor music as undisputed masterpiece). The resultant over-civilised sound certainly takes some getting used to, and the loss of the ‘raw’ wind effect means that one’s attention span can decrease with alarming rapidity.

The arrangement is, admittedly, expertly and deftly done, and there are many imaginative touches, but it does rather demean Mozart’s achievement rather than enhance it. The great third movement Adagio is hopelessly cushioned, with woodwind soloists singing over strings which sway in the breeze. It is true that the following Menuetto is robustly done, but the replacement of horns by strings robs the characteristic ‘horn-call’ intervals of their effect. Perhaps the biggest shock is the opening of the Finale, now on string quartet, so that it does indeed sound like the last movement of a string quartet rather than the original’s robust gallop.

This is not quite the nineteenth century equivalent of putting a disco beat behind Mozart 40, but it's not far off. The Consortium Classicum bring all the life and care for detail one would expect, but even they cannot rescue this arrangement.

One of the most civilised, harmless discs I have ever come across. Play it while you cook the dinner.

 

Colin Clarke

 


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