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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphonies - 250th Anniversary Edition
CD1 [60:41]
Symphony No. 17 in G major, K129 (1772)
Symphony No. 18 in F major, K130 (1772)
Symphony No. 19 in E flat major, K132 (1772)
Symphony No. 22 in C major, K162 (1773)
CD2 [53:17]
Symphony No. 21 in A major, K134 (1772)
Symphony No. 23 in D major, K181 (1773)
Symphony No. 24 in B flat major, K182 (1773)
Symphony No. 27 in G major, K199 (1773)
CD3 [65:08]
Six German Dances for orchestra, K571 (1789)
Les Petits Riens (ballet music) for orchestra, K299b (1778)
Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K183 (1773)
Symphony No. 26 in E flat major, K184 (1773)
CD4 [74:32]
Symphony No. 28 in C major, K200 (1773)
Symphony No. 29 in A major, K201 (1773)
Symphony No. 30 in D major, K202 (1773)
CD5 [72:13]
Symphony No. 31 in D major, K297 ‘Paris’(1778)
Symphony No. 33 in B flat major, K319 (1779)
Symphony No. 34 in C major, K338 (1780)
CD6 [71:00]
Symphony No. 32 in G major, K318 (1779)
Symphony No. 35 in D major, K385 ‘Haffner’ (1782)
Symphony No. 36 in D major, K425 ‘Linz’ (1783)
CD7 [68:33]
Symphony No. 38 in D major, K504 ‘Prague’ (1786)
Symphony No. 39 in E flat major, K543 (1788)
CD8 [74:41]
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550 (1788)
Symphony No. 41 in C major, K551 ‘Jupiter’ (1788)
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
(Symphonies 17-19, 21-24, 27)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
(Symphonies 25, 26, 28-36, 38-41)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Raymond Leppard
(
Six German Dances and Les Petits Riens)
Recorded at: Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem, Holland, April 1989 (K134, K184), November 1989 (K199), March 1990 (K181), November 1990 (K162), April 1991 (K129, K130, K132)
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland, November 1982 and March 1983 (K299b, K571)
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Holland, November 1980 (K338, K385), September 1981 (K297, K319, K504), March 1982 (K551), June 1983 (K183, K550), May and June 1984 (K201, K318, K543), November 1984 (K425), January and February 1988 (K184, K200, K202). DDD
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62334-2 [8 CDs: 60:41 + 53:17 + 65:08 + 74:32 + 72:13 + 71:00 + 68:33 + 74:41]

 

 

As part of their Mozart 250th Anniversary Edition Warner Classics have released a substantial survey of Mozart’s symphonies consisting of previously released material from their generous back catalogue. This celebratory super-budget priced set contains twenty-three Mozart symphonies commencing with the early No. 17 in G major, K129 from the year 1772 to the final Symphony No. 41 in C major, K551 ‘Jupiter’ from 1788. The conductors are Harnoncourt and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with fifteen symphonies and Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra with eight symphonies using period-instruments. The recordings were made over an eleven year period commencing in 1980 at three different European locations.

As a filler the set includes the Six German Dances for orchestra, K571 and Les Petits Riens for orchestra, K299b performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Raymond Leppard. These were recorded back in 1982 and 1983 at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh.

Mozart’s first symphonies were most likely influenced by those of Johan Christian Bach and also Carl Abel, with whom Mozart came into contact when visiting England in 1764 as an eight year old. The scores, like those of J.C. Bach were usually in the three movement form of the Italian Overture. Development of themes was scant. These very early symphonies are rarely recorded and performed and do not feature here.

The first symphony here is No. 17. The work is one of a set of eight (K114, K124, K 128-130, and K132-134) that Mozart composed between the death of his patron Prince-Archbishop von Schrattenbach in December 1771 and his departure to Italy in October 1772. These are good-humoured and inventive works, composed for orchestral performers that Mozart knew personally. At this time Mozart began to work for his new and less lenient employer, the Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo, who had definite ideas about the role of music in his court and church. More noticeably developed are the seven symphonies that Mozart produced following his last visit to Italy between April 1773 and May 1774 (K162, K181, K184 and K199-202).

Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra perform the eight symphonies that span the first two discs of the set (K129. K130, K132, K134, K162, K181, K182 and K199). Koopman recorded these in the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem between 1989 and 1991. The recordings achieved considerable critical acclaim when they were originally released on the Erato label in 1991 and 1992 and this is understandable owing to the high quality of the performances. Koopman using period-informed performance practice is in total control with judiciously chosen tempos and his authentic-instrument orchestra play with astonishing accomplishment. I was especially struck by the abundance of vitality and the rhythmic drive in the allegros. The impressive Koopman ensures that the playing in the slow movements is sympathetic, expressive and stately. The string sections of many period-instrument orchestras are often accused of being harsh and abrasive but this is not the case here as the Amsterdam strings are consistently clear and smooth. I was also impressed with the silvery-tone of the woodwind but less so with the tuning from the brass. There is some uncomfortable blaring from the brass in the louder passages.

Harnoncourt and the Concertgebouw feature on the next six discs with the remaining fifteen symphonies ( K183 LittleG minor, K184, K200-202, K297 ‘Paris’, K318, K319, K338, K385 ‘Haffner’, K425 ‘Linz’, K504 ‘Prague’, K543, K550 and K551 ‘Jupiter’). These symphonies have all been released previously on the Warner Classic, Teldec and Elatus labels.

Returning to Salzburg after a short visit to Vienna in the summer of 1773, Mozart’s understanding of the genre took another step forward. Symphony K.202 is primarily celebratory in mood, but in Symphonies K183, K200 and K201 we find works whose expressive means, grace and musical expression are on a new level. These are the earliest of Mozart’s symphonies to earn a place in the repertoire.

The ‘LittleG minor Symphony, K183 has a far different temperament, primarily due to the key and was the first symphony that Mozart had written in a minor mode. The only other Mozart composed in a minor key is the ‘Great G minor Symphony No. 40. The four movement K183 is a score justly celebrated for its expressive power, almost certainly inspired by the turbulent minor-key Sturm und Drang symphonies of the time of Haydn, Vanhal and others. The anger and frustration infused into the score rise to a seriousness of expression not previously encountered. It has an unusual scoring for four rather than the orthodox two horn parts.

In the LittleG minor Symphony Harnoncourt continues the striking rhythmic momentum throughout the passionate and intense restiveness of the first movement, providing plenty of bite and vitality. The soft and subtle, yet bright andante provides welcome emotional relief, and the ebb and flow is expertly maintained with an unrelenting pendulum-like momentum.

The short and robust menuetto of the LittleG minor Symphony is a rather gloomy affair with an air of discontent that lacks the boldness and daring of later corresponding movements. Containing two main themes, both sensitive in nature, it is given a highly controlled and balanced reading. The finale is vigorous and thrilling amid the scampering restlessness and stormy atmosphere of the movement.

K200 is a work of boisterous energy and spirit and K201, from its, broad serene opening to its playful finale is perhaps the finest and certainly the most popular of the early works. After this burst of symphonic activity Mozart’s productivity dropped dramatically, no doubt as disillusionment set in with the regime of his patron the austere Archbishop Colloredo.

In March 1778, Mozart keen to escape the frustrations of his position in Salzburg and perhaps to search out a more congenial employment, travelled with his mother Anna Maria to the bustling and more cosmopolitan city of Paris arriving on the 23rd. Whilst on the journey his mother’s health began to seriously deteriorate; tragically she died after a short illness in Paris on 3rd July. Career-wise Paris did not live up to his expectations either and his only real success in that six month period was the triumph of his Symphony No. 31 K297 ‘Paris’ composed for the influential Concert Spirituel. Possibly as some form as catharsis Mozart threw himself into his work and the score to the K297 was completed and premièred within weeks of his mother’s tragic death.

Jean Le Gros, director of the Concert Spirituel was unhappy with the slow movement and the compliant Mozart wrote a replacement. Both versions of the movement are recorded here. Mozart scored the ‘Paris’ for the largest orchestra he had used so far; utilising 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings. Here Mozart was using clarinets in a symphony for the first time. Harnoncourt offers confident playing of considerable delicacy and wit in the opening movement marked allegro assai. Here we have a staccato string passage that is repeated four times in modulation which Mozart stated was sure to please the Parisian audience. The contrasting moods of the original second movement andante are performed with smooth and gentle playing of an impressively seamless nature. The waltz-like second subject is especially well defined. Vigorous playing here brings out the hard brilliance of the short closing movement allegro, providing an effectively vivacious conclusion. In Mozart’s shorter replacement version of the andante Harnoncourt focuses with considerable success on the charming and exalted nature of the music .

Returning to Salzburg in 1779, Mozart was undoubtedly a changed and somewhat chastened man. His symphonies now began to take on a richer and more personal character. Three symphonies date from these last years in Salzburg. Both K318 and K338 (composed in April 1779 and August 1780 respectively) are powerful works in their way. K319 from July 1779, is less brilliant and not as aggressive as its contemporaries, being of an amiable nature and modest scoring; a reversion to what the Austrians at that time expected from a symphony. In professional terms Mozart may have been marking time during this period in Salzburg between 1778-79, yet in these three symphonies we glimpse him armed for the greatness to come.

In 1781, Mozart finally severed his ties with the Salzburg court, when he decided to make Vienna his home and to take a chance as a freelance composer and performer.

The imperial capital offered the kind of home and independence and cultural musical milieu that Mozart had not known in Salzburg. The composer’s response was to write music whose growing emotion and intellectual reach would, together with the works of his friend Haydn, define the sophisticated and subtle expressiveness of the high Classical style.

Mozart’s first ‘Viennese’ symphony, K385 was actually composed for the ennoblement of a family friend Sigmund Haffner, son of the Salzburg Burgomaster, who lived in Salzburg. Composed in Vienna in the summer of 1782 the Symphony No. 35 in D major, K385 became known as the ‘Haffner’. In four movements and scored for 2 oboes, (2 flutes and 2 clarinets were added later,) 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings, the work underwent considerable revision before its first performance in March 1783 in Vienna. Ironically, there is doubt that the Haffner was completed in time or that the ennoblement ceremony ever took place. The ‘Haffner is a hybrid, most probably refashioned from a score that contained five movements (making it a Serenade in form). An introductory march and a second minuet was originally placed between the opening allegro and the slow central movement. Mozart removed both these movements and added flutes and clarinets to the first and last movements, thus turning it into a symphony, for the prestigious ‘Wiener Akademien’ performance attended by Emperor Joseph II, in March 1783.

The Haffner became the most popular symphony Mozart had written up to that date. The joyous opening allegro con spirito is astonishing for its economy of means. Mozart broke with the convention by omitting a contrasting second theme. The unusual single theme has the strength and forceful presence to carry the opening on its own. Harnoncourt offers plenty of bite with committed playing that is noble and refined. True in feeling and atmosphere to its Serenade origin, the lengthy andante movement is a simple direct statement of a romantic song followed by an even more sensitive passage. With aristocratic grace the players allow Mozart’s great melodic gift to shine through. This is superb silky smooth and light playing that conveys moments of magical hushed softness. Although one is loath to criticize Mozart, despite the quality of the playing the movement seems overlong. Commencing vigorously before the more pastoral mood of the trio is introduced, the third movement menuetto is typically ‘Mozartean’ in its sophistication and vivaciousness. The impeccable playing here is scrupulously clean and crisp. For the final movement presto Mozart borrows a tune from his newly-completed opera The Abduction from the Seraglio. Mozart instructed that the romping rondo, “…must be played as quickly as possible.” In a whirlwind flourish the Amsterdam players perform with breathless momentum and genuine sparkling energy.

That same year Mozart and his new wife Constanze Weber on the way back from visiting Salzburg stopped at the town of Linz and hastily arranged a concert. Having no symphony with him Mozart hurriedly composed one from scratch, in just six days, and the resulting  D major score became known as the ‘Linz’. The ‘Linz’, K425 is a robust work in four movements with a ‘Haydnesque’ quality, not least in its use, for the first time in a Mozart symphony, of a slow introduction.

Mozart’s final four symphonies set a new level of achievement for the genre, both in terms of their compositional resource and for their unprecedented seriousness and expressive depth. The standard of orchestral performance in Vienna, especially the woodwind playing, was excellent. Mozart became increasingly acquainted with the music of J.S. Bach and Handel. As a consequence the Symphony No. 38 in D major, K504 ‘Prague’ assimilates Mozart’s use of counterpoint with an ever greater insistence and subtlety into the fabric of the music.

The Marriage of Figaro, introduced at the Burgtheater in Vienna on May 1, 1786 gave Mozart the greatest public success he was ever to enjoy in his brief life. As triumphant as the Vienna première was, the response was greater still in Prague the following winter. In January 1787 Mozart and his wife made an extended visit to the Bohemian capital, where he was lionised as the hero of the hour. Besides raising his spirits the sojourn in Prague brought Mozart a commission for an opera Don Giovanni which was to become one of the greatest works ever written for the stage. In Prague Mozart not only conducted at least one performance of The Marriage of Figaro, but also directed the premiere of the new ‘Prague’ K504 that he had composed the previous month. The enthusiasm of the audience on that occasion was so great that Mozart was compelled, as an encore, to improvise at the piano for nearly an hour.

The Prague’ is Mozart’s last three movement symphony and in its emotional substance and carefully worked structure, it has little in common with the slender operatic works of earlier years. The Pragueis sometimes referred to in Germany as the Symphony ohne menuett (without minuet). While Mozart had written such symphonies in his earlier years, this is the only one among the half-dozen composed in his Viennese years that does not contain a menuetto. What is far more unusual is that all three movements are in sonata form, a phenomenon perhaps unduplicated among Classical symphonies. The score prescribes the largest orchestra that Mozart had ever used in a symphony, with flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns and trumpets in pairs and timpani and strings.

The extended opening movement, at over nineteen minutes, is the longest Mozart wrote by some considerable distance. The movement seems overlong but it almost feels like an act of heresy to criticize Mozart from the armchair. This is highly dramatic music, full of vigour and with that peculiarly alarming Mozartean undercurrent of tragedy. The opening to the adagio is of tremendous breadth and of a significance that demands a substantial, muscular allegro; Mozart doesn’t disappoint. The increasing intensity of the development section of the opening movement is one of the greatest, most serious and most aggressive in all of Mozart’s works. The Royal Concertgebouw and Harnoncourt perform with an engaging sensitivity in the eloquent tension of the slow introduction. This contrasts with the power and energy of their big-boned performance.

In the lengthy second movement andante drums and trumpets are dispensed with. It is remarkable how one lovely idea succeeds another in a most logical progression. After the strength of the opening movement the placid andante comes as a welcome relief. The music takes on a sweetly lyrical character that seems to be on the verge of being overwhelmed with more tensions. However, the movement carries extraordinary emotional weight. The polished and expressive playing nevertheless communicates an impressive sense of purity.

The perceptive critic Albert Einstein said of the closing movement presto that, “despite the appearance of cheerfulness and a feeling of completeness, [it] leaves a wound in the soul; beauty is wedded to death.” The movement is characterised by wit and fire contrasted with graceful passages. The interpretation conveys exuberance and dash with that necessary element of orchestral bite.

The last three mighty symphonies K543, K550 and K551 were all composed in Vienna in 1789, amazingly in the short space of only six weeks. In these last few years of his life there was no let-up in Mozart’s prodigious creativity. Composer and musicologist Julius Harrison has described this triumvirate of symphonies as “A trilogy of happiness, melancholy and strength, [they] seem to contain between them the quintessential features of symphonic art; perfect models for all time, both architecturally and emotionally.” There seem to be no records of these famous symphonies receiving performances in Mozart’s lifetime. The reasons for their composition is unknown but it seems inconceivable that they were not intended for performances that Mozart was planning for the autumn.

The untitled Symphony No. 39 in E flat major, K543 is the least well known of the three, yet it is the most lyrical in character. Mozart seemed easily to detach himself artistically from the difficulties of his personal life as demonstrated here. At this time he was in the depths of despair, oppressed by debts, the inability to secure suitable employment and by fears for the future. Yet none of these anxieties seem to intrude into this music, which is consistently carefree and in love with the world. Musicologist Elizabeth Schwarm Glesner has provided a wonderful description of K543, “like the finest of Mozart’s works, a felicitous blend of joyful exuberance and sombre introspection, delicate smiles and hearty laughter, carefully counter-balancing each other through the ebb and flow of ever-changing melodies. There are graceful themes for strings and perky ones for woodwinds, particularly for clarinets, which stood high in the composer’s affections at this point in his career. Taken in its entirety, the Symphony No. 39 is refreshing to the ear, its pleasures only intensified by the fact that it is not much performed. Here is a work of inspiration that, due to its rarity, can still surprise and delight.”

Scored for flute, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings the E flat major has a hint of autumnal melancholy about it that is only fully dispelled by the high spirits of the finale. It follows the four movement design that by the 1780s had become the usual format of its genre. Unlike them, its design includes an adagio introduction to begin the first movement. The adagio begins in a splendid, ceremonial manner which in Harnoncourt’s hands is imperial-sounding. The movement then becomes quiet and expectant, its mounting sense of anticipation making the onset of the ensuing energetic and confident allegro all the more effective. The omission of oboes imparts a darker, more mellow timbre. Here there is fine rhythmic control. Nothing sounds hectic or rushed.

Julius Harrison described the slow movement andante as, “Perfect melody, developed contrapuntally with deepest feeling and skill and with the loveliest instrumentation imaginable.” The movement begins softly and placidly with a particularly graceful theme. Mozart develops some dark harmonies and stormy textures although these outbursts never last long. Maestro Harnoncourt effortlessly allows these elements to combine to create a beautiful and seemingly nocturnal atmosphere. The third movement allegretto presents a robust minuet whose central episode, or ‘trio’ passage, uses an Alpine-like folk dance melody on the clarinet. Although well performed Harnoncourt could I feel could have obtained livelier playing from his orchestra. Mozart constructs the allegro: finale on a single swift and energetic theme. As in Haydn’s finales, this subject proves the source of myriad developments, as Mozart varies and extends it in a variety of imaginative ways. The music is performed with an abundance of energy and vivaciousness to provide an effervescent swagger to the proceedings.

The Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K550 known as the ‘Great G minor’, is a deeply emotional work, transforming the more conventional minor-key utterances of K183 into an intensely moving meeting of the tragic and the idyllic. It is small wonder that this work of sombre and dramatic power was one of the most influential of all Mozart’s’ works in the century that followed his death. In the ‘Great G minor’ score Mozart uses a flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and strings, omitting clarinets, trumpets and timpani; although he added back the clarinets in a later revision.

There is no introduction to the first movement of No. 40. The famous opening theme is particular eloquent and dramatic; a complete musical sentence and longer than most. Throughout the movement Mozart explores an extensive range of feelings and emotion. The performance here highlights the agitation and drama, contrasting with lyrical repose and a graceful melody tinged with melancholy.

There is an even more pronounced suggestion of melancholy in the andante. Harnoncourt expertly draws out the suggestion of dark undercurrents of mystery and foreboding. A robust and military sounding minuetto leads into a lyrical trio in which the timbres of the various choirs are contrasted. Harnoncourt and his Amsterdam orchestra play sensitively and persuasively, never forcing or giving excessive weight.

The unique character of the finale provides a study in extreme contrasts right from the opening. An ascending subject in the strings, to which the full orchestra replies, endows the finale with a nervous energy that persists throughout the movement. In the recapitulation, new depths of feeling are explored. Throughout the closing movement Harnoncourt tightens his grip with a performance of strong purpose, yet he never succumbs to the temptation to hurry.

The Symphony No. 41 in C major, K551 ‘Jupiter’ takes the world of festive ceremonial as its starting point, but populates it with a subtle range of moods, before culminating in a finale of stunning contrapuntal bravado. Devised in four movements the work is scored for flute and pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums with strings; although clarinets are absent. The epithet ‘Jupiter’ was not Mozart’s. It appears to have been given to this most popular of Mozart’s symphonies having originated in England around 1820. Musicologist Philip Hale finds nothing in it to remind him of Jupiter, stating, “The music is not of an Olympian mood. It is intensely human in its loveliness and gaiety.”

There are numerous light and playful episodes amid the majesty and nobility of the opening allegro. Here Harnoncourt and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra lack their usual fluency. Their playing seems heavy and ponderous at times, with the effect of dragging the music along. In the andante there are overtones of tragedy. The feeling of despair grows increasingly intense. This is a world of poignant contemplation, yearning and distress. In Harnoncourt’s hands the mood comes across as languid and perhaps a touch too tentative, almost an awkward floating around without real direction. The Mozartian lightness of touch returns in the menuetto with soft and graceful melodies for the violins. The minuet and trio are unusually rich and complicated, both musically and emotionally, for all their plain, traditional dance forms. Harnoncourt’s reading does not do the movement full justice, and is slow and lumbering, maintaining a rather leaden approach throughout.

The consummate contrapuntal skill and imagination of the JupiterSymphony reaches a high point in the famous molto allegro: finale; this makes a most powerful impact. The finale represents one of the greatest examples of development in music and is as celebrated as any single movement in eighteenth-century music. Commencing innocently with four simple notes it transforms into one of the most complex pieces of music ever written, a tour de force of classical counterpoint, with an incomparable fugal coda. In this movement Harnoncourt and his Amsterdam players awake from their slumber. Their playing is vigorous, exuberant and ebullient, wonderfully blending the forward momentum of the score with impressive inner detailing. Bravo!

In conclusion, the digital recordings of the Symphonies 17-19, 21-24 and 27 are now sixteen years old, yet sound as fresh as if they had been recorded yesterday. The period-instrument sound is simply wonderful. Many of the earlier pioneering interpretations using period-instruments were dictated by the severe limitations of their instruments. Consequently the performance style often came across as technically mechanical, rather lacklustre, frequently insipid and even sterile. As demonstrated by this recording the standard of authentic-instrument performance improved in leaps and bounds, thanks largely to a generation of specialist authentic instrument exponents that came to prominence on the period-instrument scene. Koopman can be proud of these performances. They are notable for their judiciously chosen tempos with astonishingly accomplished playing.

The digital recordings of the Symphonies 25, 26, 28-36 and 38-41 have been in circulation, over a period of between seventeen and twenty-five years. There is absolutely no need to worry as these superb performances are fresh, expressive and stylish; providing tremendous pleasure. Conductor and players skilfully combine the very best modern instrument sound with historically informed performance practice. Harnoncourt’s speeds are generally on the swifter side in interpretations that are robust and vital, offering tremendous insights into these wonderful scores. The sound engineers are to be congratulated on their high quality seven year recording assignment in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.

These are excellent recordings. However, I have several personal favourite versions from my own collection that I would not wish to be without. These include:

Symphonies Nos. 33 and 35 with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Iona Brown on Hänssler Classics 94.003.

Symphonies Nos. 35 and 36 with the Prague Philharmonia under Jirí Belohlávek on Harmonia Mundi HMC 901891.

Symphonies Nos. 35 and 38-41 with the Staatskapelle Dresden under Colin Davis on Philips- 470 540-2.

Symphonies Nos. 35, 40 and 41 with The Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell on Sony SBK46333.

Symphonies Nos. 35, 36 and 38-41 with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Karl Böhm on Deutsche Grammophon ‘The Originals’ series 447 416-2.

My particular favourite of all the Mozart recordings that I have heard is the critically acclaimed and award winning accounts of the Symphonies Nos. 40 and 41 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein on Deutsche Grammophon ‘Masters’ series 445 548-2.

The Six German Dances, K571 and the ballet music Les Petits Riens, K299b performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Raymond Leppard were recorded at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh in November 1982 and March 1983 respectively. The German Dances were composed in Vienna in 1789 and are of great orchestral splendour. They form a small unified cycle of truly symphonic spirit. The ballet music Les Petits Riens was composed in Paris in 1778 as an interlude in Niccolò Piccinni’s opera Le finte gemelle (The Fake Twins). The score, which comprises an overture and thirteen pieces, is a substantial work at almost twenty minutes in length. Apparently the ballet music achieved a certain amount of success for Mozart and was performed several times. Interpreted with vitality and style these are outstandingly characterful accounts of the two scores which reveal the works as more than mere fillers.

This set is highly recommended. The high quality sound is cool, vivid and well balanced. I just love the consistent purity and nobility of the playing which is marvellously assured and refined. There is never any Romantic wallowing and the performances are characterful but never overacted.

Michael Cookson

 

 

 



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