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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Symphonies Ė Volume 2

Symphony in D Major, K111a (1771)
Symphony No.18 in F Major K.130 (1772)
Symphony No. 19 in E flat Major (1772)
Symphony No. 24 in B flat Major K182 (1773)
Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K183 (1773)
Symphony No. 26 in E Flat Major K.184 (1773)
Symphony in D Major K 196 (1775)
Symphony No. 29 in A Major K.201 (1774)
Symphony No. 31 in D Major K.297 "Paris" (1778)
Symphony No. 32 in G major K.318 (1779)
Symphony No. 33 in B flat Major, K319 (1779)
Symphony No. 34 in C major K.338 (1780)
Symphony No. 35 in D Major K.385 "Haffner" (1782)
Symphony No. 36 in C Major K.425 "Linz" (1783)
Symphony No. 38 in D Major K.504 "Prague" !1786)
Symphony No. 39 in E Flat Major K.543 (1788)
Symphony No. 40 in G Minor K.550 First version without clarinets (1788)
Symphony No. 40 in G Minor K.550 Second version with clarinets (1788)
Symphony No. 41 in C Major K.551 "Jupiter"(1788)
Mozart Akademie Amsterdam
Directed from the harpsichord by Jaap ter Linden
All recorded at Maria Minor, Utrecht, The Netherlands, Spring 2002. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99715 [6CDs: 415 minutes]



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This Brilliant Classics box of Mozart Symphonies is the second of two volumes. In addition to the numbered works it also contains the un-numbered symphonies, K.111a, and K.196. Brilliant Classics have also included two separate versions of Symphony No. 40, K550, with and without clarinets. These two boxes form part of Brilliant Classics complete Mozart Edition which are available at budget price.. Currently both sets can be bought for just under £13.00 each (6 CDs) and so they are probably amongst the cheapest sets of this kind currently available. They come in to direct competition with DGís Collectors Edition conducted by Trevor Pinnock.

Like the DG issue, there are comprehensive notes, but details of the works themselves are a bit scant. Based upon the information, the implication is that the same orchestra is used for all works, which blatantly is not true Ė for example, how is it possible that two clarinets are used for the version of K.550 without clarinets. Still this is of very little consequence as all of the members of the orchestra appear to be very good. The Mozart Akademie Amsterdam is one of the youngest ensembles in the Netherlands. The orchestra plays on authentic instruments and was formed by conductor and cellist Jaap ter Linden, for the performance of the first Viennese School on period instruments. The conductor hand-picked specialists from other well known European orchestras for this task, and its many performances throughout the Netherlands have been met with high approval.

The recording quality is the main difference between the recorded versions by the two conductors, Pinnock and ter Linden. In the DG box, the orchestra is up close in very bright sound, whereas the ter Linden performances are set in a more natural, concert-hall acoustic. This has gains as well as losses. The gains are that the sound is far less tiring on the ear, the Brilliant Classics box sounding very mellow. The loss is that of meticulous balancing enabling one to hear every strand of the musical argument. This is not to say that anything is missing in the cheaper set, there is not. It is just that the DG sound hits you like a sledge hammer whereas the Brilliant Classics box beguiles the ear.

Of the two ensembles, there is very little to choose. In some works tempi are faster in one set and slower in others, so there is little competition. One area of difference is the sound of the strings. The Dutch ensemble strings sound more period orientated than the English Consort.

Jaap ter Linden is probably less known in the UK than Trevor Pinnock on the rival DG set. After completing his studies ter Linden together with Ton Koopman, founded the ensemble Musica da Camera. Subsequently he was a member of Musica Antiqua Köln, The English Consort and The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra so he has operated within the period music arena for some time. He then founded The Mozart Akademie Amsterdam, dedicated to the performance and recording of classical repertoire. He plays both cello and gamba and has appeared as soloist with pianist Bart van Oort, violinists Andrew Manze and John Holloway and cembalists Richard Egarr and Lars Ulrik Mortensen.

One other advantage (if this applies to you) is that the more popular symphonies may be obtained at a much cheaper price as you donít need to buy the whole of Mozartís canon at once.

In this box are included two un-numbered works which must seem strange for these late symphonies. In the case of K 111, Mozart has taken the Overture to the opera "Ascanio in Alba" and created a symphony from the proceeds. The original choral ending to the overture was replaced by Mozart to make the symphony.

The Italian influence of composers such as Giovanni Battista Sammartini and Luigi Boccherini was applied to Mozartís early symphonic writing and these symphonies show clear allegiance to these works. In the other un-numbered work, the K. 196 was based upon the Overture to "La Finta Giardiniera" and coincided with the development of the symphony based upon the influence of the Mannheim School. Like the earlier work mentioned earlier, Mozart wrote a third movement to make a symphonic whole. Until then symphonies were principally for strings alone with the woodwind instruments being added for additional colour in the 1770s. Both of these un-numbered symphonies have the wind instruments present adding colour to the proceedings.

Once we get to the symphonies in the 20s, we reach some of the composerís well known works, and this is where this set starts. Unfortunately Symphonies Nos. 27, 28 and 30, K. 199, K.200 and K. 20 are not included in this set Ė for these you will have to buy Volume 1. Still, we get No. 24, 25, 26 and 29, K. 182, 183, 184, and 201. The latter work is one of Mozartís miraculous masterpieces and has been a firm favourite with music lovers the world over for a long time. In this performance the symphony is lovingly phrased and played by conductor and orchestra.

When we arrive at the last 10 symphonies, we reach the real core of Mozartís symphonic writing.

This middle range, known as the Salzburg Symphonies, showed a marked development in the stature of Mozartís symphonic writing. The initial symphonies were written in Austria, following Mozartís stay in Paris, and they were the last of Mozartís symphonies to be published in his lifetime. No. 33 in B Flat Major was originally written in three movements, in the Italian style. He later added a minuet and trio, so converting it to what had become commonly known as the Viennese school. The remainder of his symphonies were in this style except the Prague, which had only three movements. The three geographically named symphonies, Paris, Linz, Prague, all names reflecting the cities in which they were first performed or in the case of the Linz Symphony, where written. The Haffner Symphony, was written at the request of Leopold Mozart to celebrate the ennoblement of his old friend Siegmund Haffner, the same person for whom the Haffner Serenade had been written earlier. It was really another orchestral serenade with two minuets, rather than a full blown symphony, although to hear it in this performance it fully takes on its symphonic stature.

The great last three symphonies are in fact four in this set, as ter Linden has decided to include the original version of No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550, without clarinets. This version is less well known than the final version (also played here) and it is interesting to compare one against the other, in two very similar performances. It is definitely true that the clarinets give extra body to the symphony, explaining why it has become the preferred version.

This box is rounded off by a superb performance of the Jupiter, extremely lively and downright jubilant in the last movement, as it should be, with trumpets sounding exuberantly festive.

There is one big disadvantage with this set Ė once you hear it you will probably wish to buy Volume 1 as well.

Very highly recommended.

John Phillips



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