> After Mozart [TH]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART 1756-1791)

Serenata Notturno in D major, K.239 (1776)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in G major, K.525 (1787)
Leopold MOZART (1719-1787)

Kinder-Symphonie in C major (c. 1760)
Alexander RASTAKOV (b.1953)

5 Min. aus dem Leben von W.A.M. (1999)
Valentin SILVESTROV (b.1937)

The Messenger (1996)
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)

Moz-Art à la Haydn (1997)
Kremeratica Baltica/Gidon Kremer
Recorded at various venues in Germany and Austria between October 1999 and June 2000 DDD
NONESUCH 7559-79633-2 [66.26]

This is yet another enterprising attempt from Gidon Kremer to bridge the gap between old and new, and in the process give the listener a thoroughly stimulating experience. He did a similar thing with his recording of Piazzola’s Four Seasons re-working; in this case, he juxtaposes ‘real’ Mozart (father and son) with contemporary pieces either inspired by, or written as a response to, the world of Mozart.

To deal with the ‘authentic’ Mozart first, it is good to report refreshing, vigorous readings of some very familiar music. Kremer and his colleagues use modern instruments, with vibrato included, but adopt a fresh, pointed rhythmic response to the phrasing, so that everything emerges with clarity and vitality. He is not afraid to ‘century-hop’ in this music either, interjecting what he calls ‘polystylistic cadenzas which suggest the influence of time-travelling jazz musicians with a knowledge of Shostakovich and Berg’. This is most evident in the finale of the Serenata Notturna, and points to his association with Schnittke, whose wacky cadenza to the Beethoven Violin Concerto Kremer recorded some years ago. In Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, everything is played more or less straight, though Kremer enjoys inserting solo lines and improvisatory embellishments here and there, giving the piece a kinship with the concerto grosso form of Mozart’s predecessors. Both works get a thorough ‘dusting down’ that is very welcome, and I can’t imagine even purists complaining, as it’s all done with a conviction and playfulness worthy of Mozart himself.

The band obviously have a riotous time in Mozart senior’s Kinder-Symphonie (sometimes wrongly known as the Toy Symphony) where the use of realistic or imitative devices was often sanctioned. In this case, we have pagers and mobile phone interjections (I guarantee you’ll be reaching for your pocket!) giving the piece the required contemporary slant, whilst remaining completely authentic. ‘It is’ says Kremer, ‘as if we’d invited Mozart and his father into the studio to fool around with us’. All very enjoyable.

The contemporary items are no less revealing, and all seem to inhabit a sort of dream world, where snippets of Mozart are put through a 20th century ‘lens’. Alexander Raskatov’s 5 min. aus dem Leben von W.A.M (here receiving its first recording) takes several characteristics of Mozart’s style (charm, innocence, naïveté), and explores them in a new light, adding the odd soft tone-cluster, mixing percussion with the strings, repeating a short cadential sequence with various combinations of instrumental colour. It makes for a short but thought-provoking musical memory of a past age.

Silvestrov’s The Messenger inhabits an even more dream-like aural landscape, which is not surprising, as it was written shortly after the death of the composer’s wife. This is a haunting piece, originally for piano solo but reworked for strings, piano and a synthesized background of ‘wind’, a desolate breeze that comes to us from a great distance. The Mozart fragments then come and go, strange chord progressions do not resolve, melodies appear and fade away. The composer seems to be trying to reconcile past and present, beauty and a deep sense of loss and regret, and he himself tells us ‘it is as if a visitor from some other dimension of time had come to us with a message’. Kremer sees it as ‘a miserere, of the kind Mozart might have composed were he alive today’.

Schnittke’s typically provocative Moz-Art à la Haydn has been recorded by Kremer before, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The piece was sparked by Schnittke’s fascination with a Mozart fragment of 1783, which he took as a starting point before putting it through what the booklet writer calls ‘the compositional equivalent of a food processor’. The result is an inventive collage of sounds, melodies, quotations, all piled on top of one another and blended together. It was presented at the Berlin festival of 1988 as a ‘play with music’, the piece accompanying a masked performance in the style of an Italian carnival. It ends (or rather collapses) with the musicians leaving the stage one by one, still playing, in the manner of Haydn’s Farewell Symphony, while the conductor directs an invisible orchestra and only the bass player remains.

The whole disc is an absorbing experience, a witty and imaginative attempt to set Mozart ‘in the frame of our own time’, as Kremer aptly puts it. The punningly titled Kremerata Baltica have always enjoyed working with new music, and their expertise is obvious in every item. It is good to hear them play the ‘straight’ stuff so winningly too, and I would recommend their Eine Kleine to anyone who feels they are bored with its familiarity. The recording is in the demonstration bracket, and there are very illuminating notes from Bob Gilmore. Another excellent and rewarding Nonesuch issue.

Tony Haywood

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