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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
46 Symphonies

Orchestra Filarmonica Italiana, Torino
Allesandro Arigoni (conductor)
rec. dates and location not given.
MEMBRAN 203300 [10 CDs: 69:06 + 69:09 + 72:30 + 72:43 + 64:48 + 58:41 + 55:29 + 67:59 + 53:53 + 56:00]






CD 1
Symphony No.1 in E Major K.16 (1765)
Symphony No. 4 in D Major K.19 (1765)
Symphony in F Major K.19a (1765)
Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major K.22 (1765)
Symphony No. 6 in F Major K.43 (1767)
Symphony No. 43 in F major K.76 (1767)
Symphony No. 7 in D Major K.45 (1768)
Symphony G Major K.45a "Old Lambach"(1768)
CD 2
Symphony in B Flat major K.45b (1768)
Symphony No. 8 in D Major K.48 (1768)
Symphony No. 9 in C major K.73 (1770)
Symphony No. 10 in G major K.74 (1770)
Symphony No. 44 in D major K.81 (1770)
Symphony No. 11 in D Major K.84 (1770)
Symphony No. 45 in D major K.95 (1770)
CD 3
Symphony No. 47 in D major K.97 (1779)
Symphony No. 46 in C major K.96 (1771)
Symphony No. 42 in F major K.75 (1770)
Symphony No. 12 in G Major K.110 (1771)
Symphony No. 13 in F Major K.112 (1771)
Symphony No. 14 in A major K.114 (1771)
Symphony No. 15 in G major K.124 (1772)
CD 4
Symphony No. 16 in C major K.128 (1772)
Symphony No. 17 in G major K.129 (1772)
Symphony No. 18 in F Major K.130 (1772)
Symphony No. 19 in E flat Major (1772)
Symphony No. 20 in D Major K.133 (1772)
CD 5
Symphony No. 21 in A Major K.134 (1772)
Symphony No. 22 in C Major K.162 (1773)
Symphony No. 23 in D Major K.181 (1773)
Symphony No. 24 in B flat Major K.182 (1773)
Symphony No. 25 in G Minor K.183 (1773)
CD 6
Symphony No. 26 in E Flat Major K.184 (1773)
Symphony No. 27 in G Major K.199 (1773)
Symphony No. 28 in C Major K.200 (1774)
Symphony No. 29 in A Major K.201 (1774)
CD 7
Symphony No. 30 in D Major K.202 (1775)
Symphony No. 31 in D Major K.297 "Paris" (1778)
Symphony No. 33 in B flat Major K.319 (1779)
CD 8
Symphony No. 34 in C Major K.338 (1780)
Symphony No. 35 in D Major K.385 "Haffner" (1782)
Symphony No. 36 in C Major K.425 "Linz" (1783)
CD 9
Symphony No. 38 in D Major K.504 "Prague" (1786)
Symphony No. 39 in E Flat Major K.543 (1788)
CD 10
Symphony No. 40 in G Minor K.550 (1788)
Symphony No. 41 in C Major K.551 "Jupiter"(1788)

 

What is it we all want to know when an apparently wonderful bargain like this is dropped into our laps? Is it really any good – can anything this cheap be worth it? Well, rest assured from the outset – this substantial set of Mozart Symphonies is certainly worth the economic ‘10 CDs for the price of 2’ outlay, but as you might imagine there are one or two caveats.

The title of the box quite correctly omits the word ‘complete’, and we are indeed missing a work or two. For some reason the Symphony No. 32 in G major K.318 has been omitted, and where other sets have a Symphony No. 37 in G major K.444 this one does not. Apart from this, all of the earliest symphonies are given, all of the other greats and everything else in between.

There are no booklet notes. Each CD is nicely presented in its own cardboard sleeve, but with no further information in the box and very little on the internet on either the Orchestra Filarmonica Italiana or Allesandro Arigoni this is certainly no forum for arguing philosophical standpoints or attitudes to performance practice. The orchestra plays modern instruments, and there seem to be few indicators that much effort has been put into giving these interpretations much of the ‘authentic’ feel – the somewhat soft-sticked and tubby sounding timpani are a case in point. This is not to say that most of the playing is clean and dynamic, just that if you are looking for ‘classical’ orchestral colour in the manner of Trevor Pinnock, then you should expect more in the nature of Karl Böhm. These recordings are smaller in scale than Böhm’s early DG set, and end up being somewhere betwixt and between - having something of the sonority of Sir Charles Mackerras’s excellent Telarc box with the Prague Chamber Orchestra, which would still be one of my top recommendations for a complete set at any price range.

The recordings are good, if not perhaps the summit of clarity for modern digital techniques. The orchestra is set in a pleasantly resonant acoustic – nothing too overly awash with echo, but you don’t want too dry an acoustic with this music. The winds are fine, with respectfully restrained vibrato in the flutes and oboes. The bouncy energy and simpler textures of the earlier symphonies are well represented by the orchestra, and the faster movements fair best throughout this set. One might miss the last ounce of refinement: the string sound is perhaps not as glossy and as disciplined as we’ve become used to in more expensive productions, and while the phrasing is usually sensitive it is not always equally successful in execution.

With the early and middle symphonies safely in the can, it’s when we get to the later symphonies that some weaknesses and flaws become more apparent. The violins get into a little trouble when exposed, and some crucial passages are less than effective as a result. The ‘Prague’ Symphony, No.38 has a slow introduction in two sections, with the ff chords in the second held together by rising string phrases, which I have to say sound a little ragged and sad at times. Alessandro Arigoni favours quite slow tempi in some of these later works, and the development at 3:36 in this movement is less brisk than many versions. His sustained opening of the Symphony No.39 is also initially put at risk by the upper strings, and while things settle down later on one’s ear is constantly waiting for the next bit of wobbly intonation or ensemble. The famous opening of the Symphony No.40 is also slower than most these days, but there is a logic and consistency to Arigoni’s approach that makes these tempi convincing in their own terms. One might have to struggle with preconceptions for a few minutes, but let the music run for a while and you might find yourself accepting this conductors view of the work. My nagging worry about this particular interpretation is that the operatic nature of the music seems to succumb to a more Brucknerian approach, meaning that phrases which might conceivably have been supported by a vocal line become something of a stretch. Whatever it is, it ain’t Molto Allegro, and I suspect the maestro is trying a bit too hard to be just that little bit different in the works we all know best.

I do not want to give you an unfair impression of this set just by pointing out flaws or perceived oddities. Most of it is in fact very pleasing, and if you care to start at Symphony No.21, which is where Joseph Krips started with his Concertgebouw cycle, then you will find yourself making friends with all concerned very quickly indeed. I’ve played through the whole set and made some comparisons here and there, and the overall impression is of a collection which holds little by way of surprises or highlights, but especially in the bread-and-butter fare, one that grows on you insidiously. In this way it does pretty much what it says on the tin. This may not be a set to knock others from the shelves, but at the price it will do very well as an introduction to Mozart’s symphonies for someone who is not too sure, as a nice chunky gift for any music lover, or perhaps as a set to keep somewhere where deep intellectual involvement and critical listening is less of a priority – in the car or for late sessions in the office. Most of us have ‘the great’ Mozart Symphonies on one or other of the evergreen recordings, so hang on to those and buy this box to fill in the gap where the hidden delights of all those early and middle Symphonies should stand. Whatever you do with it, you won’t be sorry you splashed out.

Dominy Clements

 

 


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