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From Kindersinfonie to Bauernhochzeit
Leopold Mozart (1719–1787) Die Bauernhochzeit (Peasants’ Wedding) [15:29]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) Fugue from Gallimathias musicum K 32 (1765) [3:32]
Twelve Variations in C on the French song ‘Ah, vous dirai-je maman’ K 265 (1778) [14:23]*
Symphony (No.1) in E flat K 16 (1764) [10:24]
Leopold Mozart Cassatio ex G (‘mit der Kindersinfonie’) (includes the ‘Toy Symphony‘)
Tini Mathot (pianoforte)*
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
No recording dates or venue stated. DDD.
CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72189 [58:48]

 

Experience Classicsonline


The representation of peasants has occasioned many enjoyable pieces of music. Bach’s Peasant Cantata springs immediately to mind, as does the imitation of shepherds piping in Corelli’s Christmas Concerto and in the ‘Pastoral Symphony’ in Handel’s Messiah. Until Beethoven showed a Romantic interest in the manner of Rousseau and Wordsworth in the countryside itself rather than its inhabitants, in his Pastoral Symphony, that is what the term Pastoral meant. Peasant merry-making seems particularly to have interested artists and composers, as in Biber’s lively representation of peasants going to church (der Pauernkirchenfahrt) and Brueghel’s well-known painting in the Vienna Kunsthistoriches Museum, The Wedding Feast.
 

Leopold Mozart seems to have been far from the dour figure represented in the film Amadeus; his Bauernhochzeit or Peasants’ Wedding is the musical equivalent of Brueghel’s painting (countless online versions of this picture: try this link). A jolly piece of music, it receives an appropriately lively performance here. Yet, surprisingly, the Ensemble Eduard Melkus on a deleted Archiv CD (427 122-2) are even more exuberant than Koopman – complete with shouts and whoops and more prominent bagpipes than on the Koopman version. 

I never thought I’d be asking for something more exuberant than a Koopman performance, but if DG - or, better still, Australian Eloquence - were to restore this Melkus recording to the catalogue, it would be a winner. Or, perhaps, Arkiv will oblige with a CDR version? Melkus’s coupling of the Musikalische Schlittenfahrt, or Musical Sleigh Ride, the Sinfonia burleca, and ten dances by Leopold’s contemporary Josef Starzer is thoroughly appropriate. If you can find a copy, snap it up.

The Fugue from son Wolfgang’s youthful Gallimathias musicum and his First Symphony are attractive pieces – astounding music for an eight- or nine-year-old – but hardly essential listening. They receive excellent performances. 

I can see the point of including the piano variations on a CD of fun music. They are especially appropriate in a programme which includes other children’s music in the form of the Kindersinfonie, usually known as the Toy Symphony. Mozart’s title gives the tune its French name, but it is known in English-speaking countries as “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”. Dohnanyi’s well-known Variations on a Nursery Song employ the same tune. The only problem is the incongruity of a solo piano sandwiched between orchestral items. 

The solo piano work would have been less incongruous if one of Mozart’s early piano concertos had been included; these transcriptions from other composers are not very often performed but the half page of notes which refers to them, especially the First Concerto, based on J C Bach, implies that it was the original intention to have included one of them. With a playing time of 58:48 there would certainly have been room. If Tini Mathot had offered us the First Concerto in a nimble-fingered performance as good as that of the Variations, that would have been a nice extra. 

Alternatively, the piano piece could have been jettisoned in favour of a performance of Leopold Mozart’s Musikalische Schlittenfahrt – an even more fun piece than the Bauernhochzeit. I’m sure that Koopman would have done it justice. On the Melkus CD it receives a really lively performance, with plenty of whip-cracking, horses neighing and barking dogs: much better than the performance of a truncated version on a deleted Hungaroton recording (Frigyes Sándor with the Liszt Chamber Orchestra on HRC066). This piece (not to be confused with Wolfgang Mozart’s Dance subtitled Schlittenfahrt) appears not to be available at the moment – someone should restore a version to the catalogue. How about rising to the challenge, Challenge? 

Mathot’s playing in these Variations is every bit the equal of Christoph Eschenbach’s on my reference recording (DG 429 808-2, deleted) and his use of a period instrument or copy is an added bonus. Whereas Eschenbach offers us the work in 8:11, however, Mathot includes every repeat, which some might find bulks this lightweight piece out excessively to 14:23. 

The Cassation makes an excellent conclusion to the programme. The whole work is performed here, not just the three movements that used to be known as Haydn’s Toy Symphony. Koopman’s version is full of life, though not quite as exuberant as the three-movement Kindersinfonie included on Sándor’s Hungaroton CD. The only recent version to challenge Koopman is on a Kremerata Baltica CD entitled After Mozart, coupled with son Wolfgang’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Serenata Notturna, and several modern works inspired by Mozart (Nonesuch 7559-79633-2, see review). Be warned: this Kremer version adds pagers and mobile phones to the original cuckoo whistles, etc. 

Black marks to Challenge for withholding the following important information:

·        The total playing time;
·        Recording date(s) and venue(s);
·        Information about Tini Mathot, the pianist in the Variations, also listed as producer;
·        The ‘pianoforte’ on which Mathot plays;
·        The words sung in the Cassatio ex G;
·        The name of the singer in the Cassatio;
·        The provenance of the drawing of dancing peasants on the cover. 

There would have been space for these details in the booklet and/or on the insert. The half page of notes about Mozart’s early piano concertos could have been ditched, since they are irrelevant to the current CD, but there would have been room for these details in any case. I tried the website, too, without eliciting any of this information. I can understand why Challenge are not proud of a playing time of less than an hour but the prospective buyer deserves to be told. 

I was particularly annoyed not to be told about the ‘pianoforte’ used in the variations, which certainly is not a modern concert grand. Is it a fortepiano or a square piano? Is it an original instrument or a modern copy? Was it recorded at the same venue as the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra? These omissions meant that I seriously considered withholding the ‘thumbs up’ accolade which this recording otherwise fully deserves. They mean that the presentation is well below Challenge Classics’ normal standard. 

The notes correctly indicate that the ‘Toy Symphony’, incorporated in the Cassatio ex G, is no longer attributed to Haydn and that doubts exist as to its attribution to Leopold Mozart, but fail to mention that it may have been a multi-authored composition, with Michael Haydn and/or Leopold Angerer (see articles in Oxford Companion to Music and Concise Grove). The English version of the notes is idiomatic. 

With very good recording, this is a very recommendable CD, for all the presentational faults which I have enumerated. Perhaps Challenge would like to reprint the booklet with the information which I have asked for. If and when I discover that has happened, I shall gladly ask MusicWeb International to acknowledge the fact in a revised version of this review. 

Brian Wilson 

 

 


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