One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             



AmazonUK   Visit our partner ArkivMusic

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No.38 in D, ‘Prague’ (1786) [27:10]
Symphony No.39 in E Flat (1788) [28:51]
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Alexander Schneider.
rec. 1986. DDD
COE RECORDS CD COE 806 [56:11]

This is one of a batch of discs released this year by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe - on its own label - in celebration of its 25th anniversary. The coincidence of this anniversary with the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth seems to have featured heavily in the choice of repertoire for the first batch of discs. That said, the repertoire choice is not a cynical one, and the coincidence of anniversaries is serendipitous. After all, Mozart’s symphonies have been at the heart of this orchestra’s repertoire since its inception, so what better way is there to celebrate the endurance of their combined music-making?
Both symphonies receive warm, affectionate performances here in clear digital sound, produced and engineered by none other than Brian Culverhouse.
The ‘Prague’ begins slowly, building into an affectionate development which underplays the movement’s minor key modulations and misses some of the drama I am accustomed to. There could also be more delicacy in the central andante, warmly though it is treated here. The finale is bright and perky, the strings sounding as one and the woodwinds making the most of their characterful solo spots.
The 39th also gets off to a slowish start, but once past the introduction, the first movement flows beautifully. Again, Schneider wallows somewhat in the andante, but matters improve in the third movement, though I miss the cut and thrust of Harnoncourt with the Concertgebouw here (Warner Elatus 0927-49828-2). This leads into another bright, cheerful finale.
There are many schools of Mozart performance, ranging from the big-band, string-heavy approach of Karajan, Walter and Böhm, to the period performance style of Hogwood and  Pinnock. The COE’s performances here lean towards the former rather than the latter. While the chamber orchestra size of the ensemble means that strings never overwhelm Mozart’s sparkling writing for horns, flutes, oboe and clarinet, Schneider is a conductor of the old school, favouring broader tempi and warmth over excitement. The orchestra’s playing is light, clean and efficient throughout.  Certainly no complaints on that front.
The choice to acquire this disc, then, comes down to the approach to these scores that you favour. I would recommend Böhm’s Berlin Philharmonic performances on Deutsche Grammophon above these if you prefer the big-band approach, though you will have to live without repeats. If, like me, you take the middle path, Harnoncourt is your man and the Concertgebouw your orchestra.  With modern instruments and a bracing approach informed by period performance practice, these are the readings that I return to time and time again.
I should also note that the COE is competing against itself in these pieces in this anniversary year, as Warner Classics has released a 25th anniversary double CD - which I have not heard - of the orchestra playing Mozart’s last four symphonies under Harnoncourt (see review).
This coupling faces a lot of competition, but no one acquiring this disc is likely to be disappointed and, as a first flirtation with these symphonies, the COE’s performances here will do very nicely.  Those who already have their larders well stocked with Mozart’s 38th and 39th, though, do not need to add these readings to their collection.
Tim Perry


AmazonUK   Visit our partner ArkivMusic


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

August 2022

Louis Caix d'Hervelois

orchestral songs



String Quartets

la folia



July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I



Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.