> Leopold Mozart - Symphonies [PJL]: Classical CD Reviews- June2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Leopold MOZART (1719-1787)
Symphony in D major (Eisen D6, 1760) [12.38]
Symphony in F major (Eisen F5, 1756/60) [16.01]
Symphony in D major (Eisen D24, 1753) [09.09]
Symphony in D major (Eisen D11, 1750/51) [14.22]
Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra Vilnius, cond. Georg Mais
DDD: recorded 6-9 June 2001 in Studio Vilnius
ARTE NOVA 74321 89771 2 [53.02]


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Leopold’s influence on Wolfgang is beyond dispute: that goes without saying. But we too easily think of Leopold merely as an ambitious father who masterminded his son’s upbringing and education; not perhaps as a composer in his own right. This interesting disc of four (surely there was room for five?) symphonies suggest that Dad may have exerted as much musical (in the sense of stylistic) influence on the younger Mozart as the London (JC) Bach, commonly regarded as the model for WA’s earliest (K16 dates from 1763) symphonies.

This music is conventional in the sense that it is limited in terms of outlook, emotional range, texture and structure. But it is fresh, there are some agreeable surprises, and it seldom descends into mere note-spinning.

Of the four symphonies on offer here, three are three-movement works in the same key of D major: only the F major piece has four movements. Major-mode brightness gives way only very occasionally to minor-mode darkness, most notably in the trio of F5’s minuet, where there is even a little counterpoint and chromaticism to treasure. Uniquely, D24 has a slow introduction, and the 2nd theme of its opening movement (an oddly syncopated affair…) is approached by means of a wholly unexpected (Haydnesque) abrupt halt!

Strings predominate: the 1st violins (who ought to be on some sort of bonus…) are the almost invariable rule when it comes to melodic material: violas and cellos stay patiently and obediently in the background. Some of these pieces include pairs of horns and oboes, but only in one (D24) do they appear in every movement: the odd trilling horn pedal excepted, these instruments (typically) contribute little more than harmonic colour.

The performances are vivacious indeed: precisely articulated and well rehearsed. But, like the music itself, they tend to adopt one of two dynamic levels (you’ve got it: loud and soft) which, if anything, contributes to – rather than limits, as the best performances would – the danger of monotony. Even so, it is difficult not to enjoy the proceedings.

The recording is admirably clear: brightly lit, but as full and as warm as one could want. There are one or two poor edits (try 1' 20" into track 5!) and several instances of the (fairly reverberant) acoustic being damped unnecessarily quickly at the ends of movements. The booklet is no tome, but it is informative and well-written.

If you like your early classical symphonies, or if you’re curious about the great Mozart’s formative years, this disc affords an inexpensive opportunity to widen your horizons. It’s widened mine, but I confess it hasn’t stirred my soul!

Peter J Lawson

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