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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Serenade in G major, K 525 (1787) [18:18]; Serenata notturna, K 239 (1776) [13:04]; Divertimento in F major, K 247, Lodron Night Music No. 1 (1776) [36:21]
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Petter Sundkvist
rec. Örebro Concert Hall, Sweden, 4-7 June 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557023 [67:43]


The Swedish Chamber Orchestra has been extremely busy in the recording studios lately and not only for Naxos. For Klaus Heymann’s company there are already four award-winning discs with the complete symphonies of Joseph Martin Kraus, a trio of Haydn symphonies and Mozart’s flute concertos with Patrice Gallois. They are also recording for BIS, Hyperion and the Norwegian Simax label. There’s a complete Beethoven symphony cycle under their principal conductor Thomas Dausgaard well on its way.

Now here is a brand new Mozart disc with the indefatigable Petter Sundkvist conducting. Long gone are the days when Nordic orchestras were regarded as second rank provincial bands. The silken string tone, the unanimity of attack and the rhythmic acuity on this disc are of a calibre to put even the ASMIF in the shade. Add to this a recording to match, by Sean Lewis. It’s second best only to hearing them live in the same venue: so lifelike, detailed and warm that the disc would be worth buying for those qualities alone. I played it to my music listening group and they were swept off their feet.

Of the three works on the disc the Divertimento in F major, K 247 is by far the least often heard and recorded, although a Google search reveals a considerable number of hits. It is also by far the longest, filling more than half the playing time. It is scored for two horns and strings and was written for Countess Antonia Lodron’s name-day, hence the sub-title. It is, as always with Mozart, well-crafted music and also highly entertaining, the horns lending an extra air of festivity to most of the movements. But everything is not only surface and entertainment. The fourth movement, Adagio, for strings only, is permeated by more than a hint of melancholy, and the trio of the second Menuetto is also contemplative, a mood that is retained in the Andante opening of the finale. When the tempo changes to Allegro assai all sorrows are swept away, however, and I suppose Countess Lodron thought it was quite a nice celebration after all, although I can think that Wolfgang Amadeus was taken to task for providing songs partly so gloomy. Present-day listeners, who search for something more than musical wall-paper, should be grateful, though. Petter Sundkvist finds the right ebb and flow in the music and the thirty-six minutes pass by in practically no time at all. I played the music while writing this paragraph and the music actually ended before the paragraph did, although I have to admit that I had to stop writing and only listen for long stretches of it.

The two well-known serenades are also given their full due, the Serenata notturna, more a concerto grosso actually, lively and filled with contrasts; Eine kleine Nachtmusik played with a refinement and care for phrasing and dynamics that makes it stand out as an even more sophisticated masterpiece than one has come to believe. Over-familiarity with a composition eventually makes one forget to listen, and Petter Sundkvist forces you to open your ears, saying: “Listen to this! Have you noticed this before?” It could be argued that he is over-explicit, that he is too sophisticated in his use of rubato, discreet as it is, and he stresses and underlines phrases and even single notes, inserting hairpin accents every now and then, in an almost romantic way. My first recording of this music, an old EP with Boyd Neel, was altogether simpler and more straight-forward, but I believe there is more than one way of interpreting this music. Petter’s way reveals his deep love and affection for this music. For me it was close to a revelation to hear it so superbly played, with tempos so discriminatingly chosen and with phrasing so full of life and the all-important ebb and flow. Others may react differently, and I hope my description has made it clear what to expect. This disc will definitely occupy a place of honour in my collection and it is a worthy contribution to the celebrations of Mozart in his 250th year.

Göran Forsling

see also Review by Christopher Howell


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