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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  
Founder Len Mullenger   


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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
The Great Composers Series

DVD [52’00]
String Quartet in D minor, K.421
Movement I [8’20]
Movement II [7’36]
Movement III [3’52]
Movement IV [9’48]
CD1 [74’39]
1. Le Nozze Di Figaro: Overture [4’28]
2. Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major K467 "Elvira Madigan": Andante [6’26]
3. Piano Sonata in A major K331: Rondo alla Turca [3’24]
4. Clarinet Concerto in A major K622 "Out of Africa": Adagio [6’24]
5. Jupiter Symphony in C major K551: Allegro vivace [11’51]
6. Requiem in D minor K 626: Requiem aeternam [4’46]
7. Ave Verum Corpus [3’37]
8. Clarinet Quintet in A major K581: Allegro [9’04]
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Serenade in G major K525:
9. Allegro [5’16]
10. Romanze, andante [4’36]
11. Menuetto [1’41]
12. Rondo, allegro [3’56]
13. Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major K313: Allegro [9’48]
La Petite Bande, Sigiswald Kuijken (1)
Derek Han, piano. Philharmonia Orchestra/Paul Freeman (2)
Klára Würtz, piano (3)
Harmen de Boer, clarinet; Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Lev Markiz (4)
Mozart Akademie Amsterdam, Jaap ter Linden (5)
Chamber Choir of Europe, Kammerorchester Pforzheim/Nicol Matt (6)
The Choir of St. John’s College Cambridge/Christopher Robinson (7)
Karl Leister, clarinet; Brandis Quartet (8)
Kammerorchester Mannheim/Florian Heyerick (9-12)
Peter-Lukas Graf, flute; English Chamber Orchestra/Raymond Leppard (13)
CD2 [63’47]
1. Cosi Fan Tutte: Overture [4’50]
2. Flute and Harp Concerto in C major K299: Andantino [8'06]
3. Piano Concerto in F major K459: Allegro assai [7’47]
4. Gran Partita in B flat major K361: Adagio [5’15]
5. Symphony in C major K425 Linzer: Andante [9’23]
6. Serenata Notturna in D major K239: Marcia [4’42]
7. Posthorn Serenade in D major K320: Concertante (andante grazioso) [8’00]
8. Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major K219: Allegro aperto [9’28]
9. Piano Sonata in C major K545: Allegro [3’16]
10. Le Nozze di Figaro: Voi che sapete [2’46]
La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken (1)
Marc Grauwels, flute; Giselle Herbert , harp; Les Violons du Roy/Bernard Labadie (2)
Derek Han, piano; Philharmonia Orchestra/Paul Freeman (3)
European Chamber Orchestra Wind Ensemble/Alexander Schneider (4)
Mozart Akademie Amsterdam/Jaap ter Linden (5)
Gil Sharon, violin; Amati Chamber Orchestra (6)
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Sir Colin Davis (7)
Emmy Verhey, violin; Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra/Eduardo Marturet (8)
Klára Würtz, piano (9)
Monica Groop, soprano; La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken (10)
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92410 [DVD: 52.00; 2CDs: 74.39 + 63.47]


Attractive stylish packaging is no substitute for information. Before removal of the cellophane seal we only know that we are purchasing a DVD and 2 CDs; the former biographical with ‘choreographed movements’ and ‘performed by the Oxford String Quartet; the latter of Mozart’s "…most famous and best loved works…". Therefore without research of some description we do not know which works are on any of the discs.

Removing the cellophane and sleeve reveals a beautifully presented triptych of three disc holders backed by the list of works exactly as I have set out above.

Good: the DVD will give an opportunity to study finger movements, bowing and playing techniques. But wait. Where does the ‘choreography’ fit in? Warning bells begin to sound. So press ‘play’.

The commentary on Mozart’s life begins and ends the DVD, and intersperses the movements of the quartet. A smoothly compiled succession of town scenes, architecture, countryside, paintings, portraits and silhouettes are all material to the point being made in the voice-over. The information is fine but to pack Mozart’s full life into 23 minutes is not realistic. We are given a history of the man with few references to his works.

What of the music: here another warning bell lies in the word "choreographed". Whilst ‘the quartet’, and I will come to that in one moment, play and we are afforded occasional views of them, on a revolving podium for the first movement, we watch dance sequences of childhood, youthful anti-parent rebellion, erotic awakening and finally an interchangeable foursome.

Apart from the dance for the first movement, which is somewhat repetitious and predictable (should I expect more?), the choreography is good becoming excellent for the third and fourth movements. The central part of the third perfectly represents youthful erotic enthusiasm whilst the fourth is a mature, smooth sinewy dance full of controlled and difficult movements with a sexual emphasis. Great: but would I have bought the package expecting that, or wanting that? I think not.

The sleeve refers to the Oxford String Quartet. The opening credit of the DVD refers to the Orford String Quartet. So, maybe a ‘typo’. But again wait: the closing credits tell us that the string quartet we heard was a recording by the Orford String Quartet whilst the musicians appearing on screen were the Con Fuoco Quartet. So is it all presentation, looks and spin?

What of the recording? It is a clear, well-focused and played performance. There is a seriously mellow tone, particularly in the violins. However, there is an absence of contrasts as if anything fortissimo or pianissimo is out of bounds. This is a pity because it reduces the effect of the lyricism of the second movement and the exuberance of part of the third. Overall I thought it a solid performance without being inspirational.

The CDs contain "…the most famous and best loved works…". Really? What may be ‘best loved’ by you may well not be by others: for example two operatic overtures in a limited 23 tracks; and of those two Cosi fan tutte would not appear in my list of only 23 extracts. However I must not cavil.

The two overtures are delivered crisply but with some variable pacing. Le nozze di Figaro has strong phrasing without conveying any light excitement; Cosi fan tutte lacks the phrasing becoming a series of notes without an overview. Derek Han’s playing in the Concerto No.21 in C major has nerve tingling hesitancy whilst in the F major his dynamics and tone are quite excellent. With him the Philharmonia is on good form producing some velvet colours.

On this evidence Klára Würtz would not be my favourite pianist. Whilst accurate and with particularly strong ‘rippling’ I thought it was a dynamically indifferent performance. And I shall not be rushing out to listen to the rest of the two symphonies at tracks 5 on each CD. In the Jupiter I thought the Mozart Akademie were straining giving the occasional harsh tone and the C major seemed laboured.

Ave Verum Corpus is outstanding: total choral clarity and balance, much feeling, understated organ playing and a superb deep brown bass. The Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is given a workmanlike performance. After somewhat laboured preceding movements, only in the rondo are dynamics much in evidence. The allegro from the Flute concerto is a seriously good track: great runs, trills, conversations with the orchestra which afford Graf excellent support.

However, for me, the second CD is preferable. The flute/harp concerto is smooth and well balanced with an almost creamy delivery by the flute, and a harp that seems not played but stroked. The Serenata Notturna exhibits strength with lyricism whilst the Posthorn Serenade transfers sound silkily between orchestral sections with some delightful overlaying. With a strong orchestral accompaniment I thought Verhey seemed more comfortable and mellower in the lower register with only slightly forced vibrato but concluding flowingly and strongly; which is where Groop does not succeed because my preferred Cherubino has a light youthful higher pitched voice; hers seems too mature for my taste – but for those who prefer that, it comes over well contrasting with the light orchestral accompaniment.

So what of the overview? I have difficulty in identifying the target market. The sleeve might tempt the avuncular gift purchase to introduce a younger mind to Mozart; whilst the dance movements might well excite, most tracks on the CDs would not stimulate the purchase of the full work.

Robert McKechnie

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