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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART  (1756-1791)
Serenata Notturna, K239 (1776)  [15.00]
Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K525 (1787)  [19.45]
Notturno in D major, K286 (1777) [17.12]
Ein Musikalischer Spaß, K522 (1787) [20.39]
Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
rec. 5-8 September 2005, Château de Cardona.
ALIA VOX AVSA 9846 SACD [72.28]

No composer has written ‘entertainment music’ of such lasting quality as Mozart. Compositions that may or may not have been intended to be listened to by an audience have secured lasting repertory positions, despite their unpromising provenance of entertaining the aristocracy at dinner or at play.
The best known piece among this collection is of course the string serenade known as Eine kleine Nachtmusik, composed for an unknown occasion in Vienna during 1787. Savall’s performance stands up well, with expertly phrased balancing of the subtle part-writing, and a real freshness in the interpretation of what can too easily seem hackneyed music. The ‘authentic’ string sound is pleasing too, as it is throughout the whole programme.
In the Serenata Notturna, a Salzburg composition from ten years previously, the addition of a timpani part makes a telling difference to the music. It is well handled but the over-resonant acoustic encourages the view that there is a want of precision in the ensemble. This is a problem in all the other music too, and it is difficult to know whether the venue or the engineers are too blame. In the Serenata the music is far from unsatisfactory in its impact, particularly in the engagingly rhythmic finale, when the subtle counterpoints of the violas really make their mark.
The beautifully contrived three-movement Notturno, one of Mozart’s most engaging Salzburg compositions, is arguably the best of all among this collection. The gentle pacing of the first movement allows the personality of each melodic ingredient to make its point. All credit to Savall for phrasing the music with care and attention to detail, and perhaps for taking due account of the resonant acoustic as well.
The Musical Joke is a vibrant and at times compelling piece, and the prominence given to the enthusiastically dissonant horns makes this a particularly compelling experience, at once jarring on the ear and engaging on the mind. Again the spacious and reverberant acoustic adds a special dimension to the effect, and some listeners will be more tolerant of this than others. The same basic issue, in fact, will apply to the whole disc.

Terry Barfoot




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