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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No 31 in D Major, K.300a, ‘Paris’ [17’36"]
Symphony No 35 in D Major, K.385, ‘Haffner’* [22’46"]
Symphony No 40 in G minor, K.550** [37’18"]
Symphony Nova Scotia/Georg Tintner
Recording dates: 16 April 1989; *20 March 1991; **1 February 1994 DDD
Tintner Memorial Edition Vol. 1
NAXOS 8.557233 [78’00"]
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In common with many other collectors, I suspect, I only encountered Georg Tintner (1917-1999) as an interpreter of Bruckner. His intégrale of the symphonies for Naxos justly garnered much praise. Who knows what other recordings might have followed had he lived a little longer? What a good idea on the part of Naxos to issue a series of concert performances in which he conducts other repertoire.

The performances here are all from studio (?) concerts recorded by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. An audience was present but on each occasion is commendably silent though applause has been retained at the end. Unlike some collectors I rather like this touch.

The orchestra here is the Symphony Nova Scotia (SNS), a professional orchestra of which Tintner was Music Director from 1987 until his death. The booklet refers to a playing strength of 37 but I suspect that the band may have been augmented slightly for these performances. In all three performances the sound is fundamentally strong, though this isn’t to say that gracefulness and delicacy are absent. Rhythms are alert and the players clearly are enthusiastic for their task.

In the ‘Paris’ symphony the slow movement flows particularly nicely. I must report that after repeated listening I still thought the opening bars of the finale sound a little scampered and rhythmically indistinct. It is not until the full orchestra enters that the listener can be sure of the pulse. However, the reading as a whole is deft and enjoyable.

The ‘Haffner’, a favourite of mine, starts with a sturdy and positively etched first movement. I wondered if the andante is just a shade too deliberate in pace. However, overall I enjoyed Tintner’s way with this movement, which he does with some feeling and style. The minuet is suitably vigorous while the finale has ample verve. This is a straightforward and enjoyable reading of the symphony.

Initially I thought that the tempo for the first movement of the marvellous G minor symphony was a bit too slow. I reckon Tintner takes it at around 89 beats to the minute. However, when for comparison I selected at random Gunter Wand’s 1994 RCA recording (with the NDR Sinfonieorchester) I found that his speed (91 to the minute) is virtually identical. Yet Wand sounds that bit lighter on his feet. I can only guess that he and his players impart just a little more spring to the rhythms. The andante is warm and is phrased affectionately. The minuet is done with purposeful momentum and the finale is well articulated and lively.

Overall I’d describe Tintner’s approach to Mozart as straightforward and sensible. I don’t mean by that that it’s dull; far from it. These are down to earth, musical performances. The playing of the Canadian orchestra is good and the sound is perfectly satisfactory. I daresay that one could find more polished alternatives in the catalogue for all three works but, of course, these are live performances without the safety net of retakes. There are useful notes by Tanya Tintner in English and French. These include several quotes about the music from Georg Tintner himself.

No one investing in these well prepared performances will be disappointed. Georg Tintner proves to be a reliable guide to Mozart, as he was to Bruckner.

John Quinn

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