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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    


 

 

 

 

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Symphonies ("complete"):

Symphony No. 1 in Eb, K16 (1762)
Symphony No. 4 in D, K19 (1764)
Symphony in F, K19a (1764)
Symphony No. 5 in Bb, K22 (1765)
Symphony No. 6 in F, K43 (1767)
Symphony [No.7] in D, K45 (1768) (mis-identified as "#45")
Symphony No. 8 in D, K48 (1768)
Symphony No. 9 in C, K73 (1771)
Symphony No. 10 in G, K74 (1770)
Symphony No. 12 in G, K110 (1770)
Symphony in D, K111a "Ascanio in Alba" (1771)
Symphony No. 13 in F, K112 (1771)
Symphony No. 14 in A, K114 (1772)
Symphony No. 15 in G, K124 (1772)
Symphony No. 16 in C, K128 (1772)
Symphony No. 17 in G, K129 (1772)
Symphony No.18 in F K.130 (1772)
Symphony No. 19 in Eb (1772)
Symphony No. 20 in D, K133 (1772)
Symphony No. 21 in A, K134 (1772)
Symphony No. 22 in C, K162 (1773)
Symphony No. 23 in D, K181 (1773)
Symphony No. 24 in Bb K182 (1773)
Symphony No. 25 in g, K183 (1773)
Symphony No. 26 in Eb K.184 (1773)
Symphony in D K 196 "Finta Giardiniera" (1774)
Symphony No. 27 in G, K199 (1773)
Symphony No. 28 in C, K202 (1774)
Symphony No. 29 in A K.201 (1774)
Symphony No. 31 in D K.297 "Paris" (1778)
Symphony No. 32 in G K.318 (1779)
Symphony No. 33 in Bb, K319 (1779)
Symphony No. 34 in C K.338 (1780)
Symphony No. 35 in D K.385 "Haffner" (1782)
Symphony No. 36 in C K.425 "Linz" (1783)
Symphony No. 38 in D K.504 "Prague" (1786)
Symphony No. 39 in Eb K.543 (1788)
Symphony No. 40 in g K.550 First version without clarinets (1788)
Symphony No. 40 in g K.550 Second version with clarinets (1788)
Symphony No. 41 in C Major K.551 "Jupiter"(1788)
Mozart Akademie Amsterdam/Jaap ter Linden
Recorded at Maria Minor, Utrecht, Netherlands, 5 2002 (K111a, K.130 - K.551),
and at Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, Netherlands, 2001. (K.16 - K110, K112 - K.202)
24 pages of notes in English. Photos of performers.
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92110/01-11 [11CDs: 733.41]

Comparison recordings:
Erich Leinsdorf, RPO ("complete") [8CDs] [AAD/ADD mono/stereo] Universal
Erich Leinsdorff, Rochester PO #41, K551 [mono] CBS LP
Hermann Scherchen, Champs Elysées Orch. K550/551 [mono] TAHRA TAH 154
Fritz Reiner, CSO #41, K551 BMG/RCA Red Seal 6376-2-RC
Rafael Kubelik, CSO #38, K504 [mono] Mercury Living Presence 434 387-2

If I say ‘Mozart on original instruments’ you might reasonably reply, ‘Impossibly fast tempi, choppy phrasing, raucous orchestral balances, strict pulse’ — and with this original instrument recording you’d be dead wrong on every single count.

Overall, these are beautiful, silky recordings. Strings play without a trace of vibrato, true, but with richly sculpted sensuous phrasing; winds, strings and brass play together like chamber performers. The conductor uses concerto grosso aesthetics where solo winds sometimes play against solo strings. Later the wind choir is matched against the full orchestra. Brass is not always forward, while timpani is enthusiastically up front throughout. It is impossible to sit still during most of the minuets and marches, your body wants to MOVE. In the later more dramatic symphonies the strings sometimes snarl and wail.

During the Nineteenth Century "Classical" Music was considered to be string music and these works were played by huge string orchestras with the winds, percussion, and brass allowed to make only the merest, sotto voce, contribution to texture. By the time of the Leinsdorff recordings in the late 1950s scholarship had changed the view, the number of strings was reduced, and winds, percussion, and brass were much more prominent, making important textural statements. These recordings carry things a step further, with the textures predominately established by winds and brass, with strings in a determinedly minor role. Although particularly for middle period symphonies this approach works very well, I feel that overall Linden has gone too far in this direction, and somewhere between Leinsdorf and Linden lies the perfect balance.

These are personal and very expressive performances, and you may not agree with everything. Musicologist and keyboardist Rod Simpson who has made special studies of K 73 and K 338 says ‘He does them exactly opposite to the way I do.’ Violin figurations that most conductors feel are the top melody line here are often reduced to a texture, barely audible, as with vines growing on a Grecian column, perhaps not surprising for a cellist.* This results in a rather strange "Jupiter" which comes to resemble more than anything else the Masonic Funeral Music. I can’t see anyone making this their favourite "Jupiter," but #39, K 543, and #35, K. 385 "Haffner," come off quite well, with #38, K 504, the "Prague," a little strange but certainly acceptable and quite interesting.

The two versions of #40, K550, are rather different as played here. The version without clarinets seems oddly hollow compared to one with clarinets, but Leinsdorf and Scherchen both used it (Rod Simpson also prefers it), even though there seems to be a general impression that the version with clarinets is more frequently heard today. In the later clarinet version, the clarinet notes seem to have been taken from the oboe and cello, and make for a sweeter and more varied sound overall, but also somewhat more congestion in the wind passages. The greater use of flute and bassoon adds pathos to the version without clarinets.

My favourite recorded performance of the Jupiter has always been Leinsdorf and the Rochester PO on a very old monophonic CBS LP. When I mentioned to Leinsdorf that I thought that this first of his three recorded performances was the best, he replied, "No! You should have heard the one I did last week with the Vienna Philharmonic. That was the best."

Perhaps the most obvious immediate difference in comparing a "complete" Mozart from the 1950s with a modern one is what music you hear. Leinsdorf plays the canon of numbered works straight through from Number 1 to number 41. But here, in line with recent scholarship, Linden adds K19a, K111a, and K196 previously classified as overtures to stage works, and the two orchestrations of K 550. Traditional numbers 2, 3, 11, and 37 (K17, 18, 84, 444) are entirely missing, this last because it was in the main composed by Michael Haydn with only the introduction and some orchestration by Mozart. What a shame! This is a very fine work and just because we no longer think it’s by Mozart, it’s just never played at all any more. So, if you own the Leinsdorf recordings, don’t throw them out; they remain very valuable.

Last but not least, the disks are sold in a box packed in thin cardboard envelopes which are open at the top, and it is easily possible to coax the disk out of the envelope without having to touch the playing surface, yet the disk stays put when it should. Such a simple thing shows respect for the purchaser as well as for the product. They deserve a medal for this alone!

*My grandfather was a trumpet player and knew no polite words for the violin.

For John Phillips’ review of just the second half of these recordings, see:

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/Apr03/Mozart2_Brilliant.htm

Paul Shoemaker



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