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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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!
grandfather was a trumpet player and knew no polite words for
John Phillips’ review of just the second half of these recordings,