On this release Classics For Pleasure feature three
towering Mozart symphonies (31 ‘Paris’, 40 and the 41 ‘Jupiter) of which
I consider the last two to be true symphonic masterpieces. These are
cast iron standard repertoire. They always have been and will undoubtedly
continue to be.
Naturally owing to the impeccable credentials of these
symphonies a plethora of eminent conductors and record companies have
been queuing up since the advent of recorded sound to record these works.
The vast number of available recordings are a testament to their popularity
and consequently the competition is extremely fierce with many of the
recordings being highly regarded. Furthermore the particular taste of
the listener is also widely catered for in the record catalogues. There
are historic mono recordings from Arturo Toscanini with the NBC SO and
Sir Thomas Beecham with the LPO. Stereo analogue recordings from the
batons of Karl Böhm and Herbert von Karajan both with the Berlin
Philharmonic Orchestra. Digital period recordings from Trevor Pinnock
and the English Concert and John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque
Soloists. Digital recordings using modern instruments by Barry Wordsworth
and the Capella Istropolitana and Sir Charles Mackerras with the Prague
It is against this savage competition that Classics
For Pleasure have released this digitally re-mastered recording from
1976 and 1981. The London Philharmonic Orchestra play on all three symphonies
and two conductors are employed; Zdenek Macal for the symphony No. 30
and Sir Charles Mackerras on the symphonies Nos. 40 and 41.
Commissioned by Le Gross the conductor of the Concerts
Spirituels in Paris to write him a symphony, "in the Parisian style",
Mozart duly composed the symphony No. 31 ‘Paris’ in 1778 within a few
months of his mother’s death. In response to adverse public criticism
concerning its length Mozart shortened the slow movement; however the
original slow movement is reinstated for this recording. The symphony
is scored for the largest orchestral forces that Mozart had utilised
so far and included clarinets for the first time in a symphony. Here
conductor Zdenek Macal gives a thoughtful yet rather standard performance.
Sir Charles Mackerras is a Mozartian conductor out
of the top drawer and gives an exceptionally fine performance of the
magnificent symphony No. 40 which Mozart composed in just six weeks
in the summer of 1788 at a time of terrible personal despair. Mackerras’s
reading gives plenty of the necessary contrasting character, successfully
balancing the score’s dark and passionate thoughts.
The symphony No. 41 ‘Jupiter’, also composed in 1788,
is a masterwork that is intensely human in its loveliness and gaiety.
Mackerras is a sensitive interpreter of the symphony’s required joyfully
majestic moods and provides a fresh and stylish account although the
pace of the third movement Menuetto proved frustratingly laboured.
Despite the merits of this budget price CFP release
each of the three symphonies can be much improved elsewhere in the catalogue.
The choice naturally depends on individual taste but putting price aside
my suggestion would be Mackerras’s Telarc readings with the Prague Chamber
Orchestra for No. 31 (with 33 and 34) on CD80190 and No. 40 and 41 on
CD80139. Or for just the symphonies No. 40 and 41 Leonard Bernstein’s
digital recordings with the VPO on DG 4455484 is the preferred choice.