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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756Ė1791)
Symphony No.40 in G minor, K550 [24:16]
Symphony No.35 in D, Haffner, K385 [16:14]
Symphony No.36 in C, Linz, K425 [23:06]
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner (K385 and K550)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner (K425)
rec. Pittsburgh 1947, 1946 (K385 and K550); Chicago 1954 (K425); ADD
Experience Classicsonline

As can be seen from the recording dates, these will not be ďauthenticĒ performances insofar as they use a large orchestra, but they will be authentic performances because they are performances from the heart, given with fire and spirit. It should also be remembered that Mozart once said, whether in jest or not I donít know, that for him the perfect orchestra included forty violins! The first movement of K550 sets off at a brisk pace and Reiner never drops the tempo, keeping it in control with a fine sense of line and style, and repeating the exposition. The only downside is the huge, and very vulgar, rallentando he employs over the final chords which spoils an otherwise perfectly judged performance. The slow movement is lovely; moments of utter simplicity alternate with high drama, with charming playing, but spoiled by another huge rallentando at the cadence. The minuet and trio is straight forward with a delightful transition from minuet to trio, which contains some gorgeous woodwind playing, and yet another large rallentando at the end. The finale races away but not with joy, this is Mozart in G minor, remember, with desperation. This is a fine performance, especially well judged in tempi, drama and repose. My only objection is the slowing down at the ends of movements Ė however, I am sure that when this recording was made, and for some time after, this was the norm and we never questioned it. Donít let it ruin a fine Mozartean performance.

The sound for the Haffner Symphony is fierce and hard driven, and so, I am sad to report, an intelligent performance is spoiled. Reiner sets a cracking pace for the opening Allegro; it is thrilling and it is matched by a slow movement of great tenderness but in this latter the beautiful sound she elicits from the strings sounds hard edged. The minuet is fast but the trio is fantastic Ė full of gemŁtlichkeit and with a real dancing lilt. The finale is a fraction too fast making some of the string articulation a problem. This is a fine performance, full of humour and with a great spirit, let down by the recording. 

Sometimes itís the small things which tip you off to the quality of a performance. In this recording of the Linz Symphony in bars 8, 9 and 10 of the slow introduction of the first movement, thereís the merest hint of a forte before the music falls back to piano. Reiner accents these fortes with such subtlety that I knew I was I for an intelligent performance. And so I was. The first movement races along at a cracking pace, joking and full of high spirits. The slow movement is a serene haven of peace. Here, Reiner withholds full power from the fortes which gives a much more singing quality to the whole piece. The Minuet is distinguished by some lovely oboe and bassoon playing and the finale is taken at a true racing pace Ė a real Presto and itís thrilling, made all the more exciting by Reiner not applying the brakes in the final cadence but racing through it bringing the music to rousing conclusion. 

This is a very interesting issue, especially so for students of interpretation. The recorded sound is of its age, of course, but in the Linz and 40th Symphony the remastering is excellent, showing us fine and intelligent Mozartean performances. The fierceness of the sound in the Haffner Symphony can be tempered somewhat with a treble cut, but this does rob the sound of some of its bloom. Certainly this isnít a disk of Mozart for everyone but I hope that I have managed to convey some of the excitement and satisfaction I felt whilst listening.

Bob Briggs


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