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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphonies: No. 40 in G minor, K550a (1788) [28'33]; No. 31 in D, K297b (1778) [19'23].
aStuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra/Gianluigi Gelmetti;
bSalzburg Mozarteum Orchestra/Jeffrey Tate.
Rec Rokokotheater Schloss Schwetzingen, 1991 and Mozarteum, Salzburg, as part of the 1999 Salzburg Festival.
PCM Stereo. 4:3. Region Code 0. Director: Jānos Darvas.
ARTHAUS 100 073 [56'00]


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An early Arthaus product here - notice the number - containing two contrasting performances of Mozart symphonies. The booklet notes discuss the symphonies in chronological order, starting therefore with the 'Paris'. Could Arthaus have changed their minds and put the G minor first, simply because it leads on to the better performance?

Gelmetti's G minor is rather run-of-the-mill. The setting is impressive, in a castle, although strangely it looks at times as if it is a painted-on piece of scenery in the background! Camera work is fine, with many shots of Gelmetti's possibly over-emotive conducting - especially in the second movement - and appropriate shots of soloists. In fact it is very similar in feel to the Gielen Beethoven DVD cycle I reviewed on these pages. The Stuttgart orchestra plays well, sculpting the lyrical parts affectionately. The repeat is taken in the first movement.  There are many nice moments, and some when ensemble just about stays together. The recording seems to favour the bass end, leading to muddying of textures on occasion; the church acoustic can't have helped!

Long breaks between movements feel rather disruptive sitting in one's living room and the general impression is that you probably had to be there. How else to explain the audience's enthusiasm at the end?

Jeffrey Tate's Mozart is far better-known, and with good reason. Tate draws a punchy, involving sound from his Mozarteum orchestra, the opening truly gestural. Violins can perhaps tend towards the sluggish in fortes, but it is the suave moments that impress. The whole performance exudes style ... in both senses. Plenty of opportunities to examine Tate's gestures; always for the musicians, always expressive, always with a point. The scales towards the close of the first movement are spot-on; the close itself positively joyous.

Although Tate's Mozart is 'big' in scale, the slow movement radiates tenderness; the string definition in the finale has to be heard to be believed.

Difficult to recommend this product then, if only one symphony out of two - and the shorter one at that - is fully up to scratch. But if you get a chance to see the Tate, do.

Colin Clarke


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