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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade in G K.525 – “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” [18:18]
Serenata notturna K.239 [13:04]
Divertimento in F K.247 – “Lodron Night Music no.1” [36:21]
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Petter Sundkvist
rec. Örebro Concert Hall, Örebro, Sweden, 4-7 June 2004.
NAXOS 8.557023 [67:43]

I find myself in two minds about the performance of “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” here. Basically, I thought it was awful. After a sturdy opening the sound tapered away in a manner which, if this had been a radio broadcast, I would have thought reception was fading. But no, it’s just an exaggerated diminuendo. The answering phrases are then subjected to the most excessively arch, over-preened, prissy phrasing, quite losing any sort of forward momentum. And so it goes on all through. Quite frankly, this is a style of Mozart-playing I find quite intolerable, but if, like my grandmother (of blessed memory), you love Mozart “because he’s so pretty” then you should be able to work out from my description whether this might be your own cup of tea.

However, it must be said that many performances of this work, as a result of over-familiarity, play unimaginatively through some actually rather remarkable harmonic changes – and we listen just as dully. With each point doubly underlined in red ink, we’re not going to miss it, and I am grateful to Sundkvist for reminding me ONCE of things about the music I had forgotten and shouldn’t have. But I don’t think I’ll hear him again. I did enjoy the finale more – there is an overall rhythmic drive which allows the point-making to fall more into place. If only Sundkvist had managed to combine his insights with a steady rhythmic trajectory in the other movements.

I found myself less disturbed by the “Serenata notturna”. Or rather, since Mozart gets up to some very strange things here – was he trying to out-Haydn Haydn? – it might be felt that no exaggeration can be too great, so it seemed reasonable that I should be disturbed. Sundkvist certainly see that we don’t miss anything.

I have never seen this Divertimento described as “Lodron Night Music no. 1” before, but since it is one of two Mozart wrote for a certain Countess Lodron I suppose there is no reason why it shouldn’t take her name if this helps people to remember the piece. It’s actually relatively routine Mozart and here I found Sundkvist’s point-making less obtrusive – maybe the lesser familiarity of the piece tempted him less in trying to give it a “new look”. His Mozart continues to remind me of “the little girl who had a little curl” and I think my ideal performance would dance and flow a little more naturally but in this work he is more often very, very good than awful. I also enjoyed the horn-playing. The piece is scored for strings plus two horns and Sundkvist has them ringing out proudly and nobly.

In short, I should hate anybody to have this as their only “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”, but if you already have an acceptable “Nachtmusik” (presumably most readers have) and are interested in the other two pieces, then you’ll hardly worry about the duplication at this price. And, looked at as an alternative version, even the “Nachtmusik” has something to be said for it.

The recording is beautifully clear and the notes are by the ever-reliable Keith Anderson.

Christopher Howell


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