their own record label the enterprising Chamber Orchestra
of Europe have issued a series of recordings as part of their
25th anniversary edition. This double set compiled from their
back catalogue consists of five of Mozart’s works that feature
wind instruments: the three Wind Serenades: K361; K375
and K388; the Concert Rondo, K371 and the Sinfonia
Concertante K297b. This recording does not include any
information on the recording dates or venues. I assume that
all the performances are studio recordings, with the exception
of K297b, which is clearly a live recording.
at the Salzburg Festival in 1980 when performing under the
baton of Herbert von Karajan, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe
(COE) was founded less than a year later. The COE has a membership
of fifty musicians selected from fifteen countries who perform
together mainly in continental Europe where important links
have grown with the cities of Berlin, Frankfurt, Graz, Cologne
and Paris. They have recorded over two hundred works and have
been awarded numerous international prizes including three
Gramophone ‘Record of the Year’ awards.
superb seven movement Serenade No. 10 also known as
the 'Gran Partita', was Mozart’s largest composition
for wind ensemble. Often referred to as the Serenade for
13 Wind Instruments, this is not strictly correct,
as it is scored for 13 instruments but generally not all are
wind. Mozart specifies twelve wind instruments: four horns,
pairs of basset-horns, oboes, clarinets and bassoons with
the addition of a double-bass. In line with Mozart’s original
intentions the double-bass is employed on this recording although
sometimes a contrabassoon is used. Studies have placed a likely
date of composition around 1782 and it is likely that the
score was intended for a specific outside event.
K361 is given a decent performance, however, they are up against
intense competition and do not share the same delight as those
offered by at least two excellent versions. Compared to the
versions from the English Chamber Orchestra under Barenboim
on HMV and the Amadeus Winds under Hogwood on Decca I found
this interpretation generally lacking in vitality and attack
in the brisk movements and in need of additional sensitivity
in the slower passages. The opening movement Largo,
Molto allegro just doesn’t have that distinctive dancing
quality and in the fourth movement Menuetto, Allegretto
that crucial bite is absent, especially in the recurring
subject at points 0:20-0:26; 0:50-0:56; 2:55-3:01 etc. In
the fifth movement Romanze, Adagio the players
cannot match that special degree of tenderness that the ECO
under Barenboim provide. I detected a vast improvement in
the closing movement Rondo which is given a swift and
vivacious reading. The recording adds a sharp edge
to the wind timbre that overall makes the sound acceptable
rather than pleasing.
reference version of K361 is superbly performed with controlled
feeling and disciplined vitality by the English Chamber Orchestra
under the expert direction of Daniel Barenboim. This agreeable
and richly recorded performance was produced in the Kingsway
Hall, London in 1976, and can be heard on HMV Classics 5 74365
2. Those wanting an account performed on original instruments
are in for a treat as there is a most impressive recording
from the Amadeus Winds under Christopher Hogwood, from 1985
in New York, on Double Decca 458 096-2.
1781 the single movement Concert Rondo for French horn
and orchestra was most probably envisaged as a finale
from a Horn Concerto that was lost or unfinished.
The score is described in the booklet notes by Nöel Goodwin
as “… a typical showpiece concerto finale in a modified
sonata-rondo form, with catchy themes treated in a virtuosic
manner and cadenza near the end.”
the Concert Rondo the horn player Jonathan Williams
proves himself to be an excellent soloist and makes light
work of the virtuosic requirements of Mozart’s score. Williams
has the advantage of sympathetic accompaniment from the COE
under Alexander Schneider. I do not have an alternative account
of the Concert Rondo in my collection that I know well
enough to recommend. However, the recording I have encountered
most often at Recorded Music Societies and on radio broadcasts
is from the English Chamber Orchestra under Barry Tuckwell,
on Decca Ovation 458 607-2.
prolific Mozart left a tremendous legacy of over forty Serenades,
Cassations and Divertimenti. There probably would have been
more as some are thought to have gone missing over the years.
Cast in five movements the E flat major Serenade, K375
is performed here in the version for eight wind instruments:
pairs of clarinets, French horns, bassoons and oboes.
resourceful and lyrical work is exceptionally well
performed here and brightly recorded. I was generally satisfied
with their interpretation of the lengthy opening Allegro
maestoso and more impressed with the third movement Adagio
which is given a beautiful reading with a pace that ensures
that sentimentality does not set in. The second and fourth
movement Menuettos are played with a satisfactory degree
of lightness and delicacy, and the final movement Allegro
is fresh, bracing and lively.
primary recommendation for K375 is performed on original instruments
by the Amadeus Winds under Christopher Hogwood, from 1985
in New York, on Double Decca 458 096-2.
is known about the attractive K388 that was thought to have
been written around 1782/83 and is a wind octet for pairs
of clarinets, French horns, bassoons and oboes. Cast in four
movements the C minor score is unusually sombre for
fine playing from the wind soloists of the COE the extended
opening Allegro and the third movement Menuetto
in canone, are slightly lacking in vitality and the second
movement Andante seems rather ponderous by comparison
to Hogwood and his Amadeus Winds. Thankfully fortunes improve
with a lively and characterful performance of the closing
movement Allegro. The clear recording quality tends
to be over-bright in the forte passages.
K388 my reference account is performed once again on original
instruments by the Amadeus Winds under Christopher Hogwood,
from 1985 in New York, on Decca.
Sinfonia Concertante K. 297b may have been written
in Paris in 1778, although it has an uncertain origin. The
three movement score survives in an unauthenticated copy probably
made around 1867-69 and is scored for four wind soloists:
oboe, clarinet, French horn and bassoon. It is possible that
the E flat major score was not written by Mozart at
all. Any doubts seem unjustified going by the obvious excellence
of the music.
the E flat major Sinfonia Concertante the four soloists
provide fine and athletic performances with excellent support
from the COE. I enjoyed the robust and purposeful playing
in the extended opening movement Allegro and the Adagio
is affectionately done. The interpretation of the closing
movement Andantino con variazioni, although buoyant,
would have benefited from a more spontaneous approach.
the Sinfonia Concertante I remain loyal to the evergreen
1957 Philadelphia recording from soloists: John de Lancie,
oboe; Anthony Gigliotti, clarinet; Bernard Garfield, bassoon
and Mason Jones on French horn with the Philadelphia Orchestra
under Eugene Ormandy on Sony Classical SBK67177.
is an interesting compilation from the own label of the Chamber
Orchestra of Europe. Although concise the annotation from Nöel
Goodwin and Lionel Salter is of a high standard. The performances,
if somewhat uneven in quality, are generally gratifying and the
inconsistent if acceptable sonics can be over-bright. Unless one
requires exactly the same programme as provided here the excellence
of the strongest rival versions makes this set difficult to recommend.