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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550 [33’21"]
Symphony No. 41 in C major, K551 "Jupiter" [37’18"]
Prague Chamber Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
Recorded in The Hall of Artists, Prague, 12-14 July 1986
TELARC CD-80139 [71’10"]

Telarc, as well as marketing Mackerras's Mozart cycle as a box, also keep the individual CDs on tap - dropping them to midprice. These are the same CDs as originally issued in the 1980s at full price. This one, for example, bears a copyright date of 1986, just three years after the launch of the compact format.

The music is well known. The catalogue bristles with competition. Mackerras is complemented by Telarc's best sonics, matching vibrant sound with splendidly tense playing. Mackerras's Mozart is no friend to languour - more Lamborghini than Mondeo. Note writer William Malloch points out that Mackerras's tempi are not up to the break-neck pace recommended by Hummel and Czerny. Even so he keeps things taut and springy throughout. Small touches such as the little hiccuped cries at 00.43 and 00.47 in the K550 andante indicate finely chased detailing. Despite his speedy tempi poetry is given its head as in the allegro assai of K550. High speed is also a charatceristic of K551. It is a tribute to the Prague Chamber Orchestra that they keep up and do not collapse into gabble or chaos. Fine airy, performances, phrases sharply accented, Mozart completely purged of powdered wig lassitude. The PCO sounds like a big band without the crushing weight of the VPO for Böhm or the Berlin Phil for Karajan. Even so there are only twenty-five players using modern instruments. The PCO’s violins are silk rather than sackloth. The timpanist uses wooden sticks as a concession to Mozart's era and the second violins are placed to the right of the conductor in a typical Boult and Handley layout.

This is lovely playing standing halfway between full cream deep pile grand orchestral style and HIP 'authenticity’. Speeds will disconcert some though Mackerras yet finds tenderness, triumph and terpsichore in these two Apollonian symphonies.

Rob Barnett


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