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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenades: No. 11 in E flat, K375 (1781) [22:23]; No. 12 in C minor, K388/K384a (1782/3) [23:10]
Wind Soloists of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Alexander Schneider.
rec. no date or location given DDD
COE RECORDS CD COE 802 [46:51]

 

There is almost an outdoor feeling to these performances - not inappropriately, given the genre. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 2005. It has been very active. I remember seeing some of the earlier concerts it gave and being amazed at the youth of the players. The average age seemed substantially lower than for other professional ensembles.

The C minor is first in playing order. The COE Soloists, while acknowledging the import of a C minor statement, opt not to dwell on the heaviness of the first movement. Light enters whenever it can. The playing is robust, an impression emphasised by John Boyden and Tony Faulkner’s rather close-up recording.

Similarly, the depths of the scores are kept at arms‘ length. The intent of the reading becomes clear in the third movement, where we are clearly out of doors. Deliberately acidic clarinets and oboes add to the slightly rough-and-ready impression. The finale is quite suave and confident. Those who dislike audible key-clicks - from the bassoon here - should be warned.

I searched in vain for a CD transfer of the 1947 Furtwängler with soloists from the Vienna Philharmonic. Apparently it is available on Walhall coupled with the same conductor’s 1949 Zauberflöte and also on Naxos 8.110994. I remember it from LP days with nostalgia. 

The E flat Serenade K375 is a different proposition entirely. The two works on this disc complement each other perfectly - indeed, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra chose the same coupling for DG - even to the extent that the mock-serious tone of K375’s opening bars takes off from K388’s finale. It is true, however, that this performance could have more joie-de-vivre; there is a rather studio-bound feel to it all. The greatest success is the first Menuetto and Trio, which is as bright as a button, with dotted rhythms emphasised to give the whole real uplift. The Adagio is more successful as it speaks of exquisite calm rather than ruffled emotions, while the finale is almost the romp it really is.

This is a budget/mid-price release but even so, I would have expected more playing time than only just over three-quarters of an hour. If the finale of K375 leaves a half-smile on the face, it is not really enough to justify the outlay.

Colin Clarke

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