MOZART (1756-1791) CD1
Symphony No. 28 in C major, K200 (1774) [21:34]
Symphony No. 33 in B flat major, K319 (1779) [19:54]
Divertimento in F major, K247 (1776) [29:43] CD2
Symphony No. 36 in C major, K425 (1783), Linz [25:31]
Symphony No. 38 in D major, K504 (1786), Prague [26:13]
Divertimento in D major, K251 (1776), Nannerl-Septett [22:09]
rec. March 1960 (K247, 251), June 1961 (319 & 425), December
1962 (200, 504). ADD ELOQUENCE 442 8149 [71:25
September 2007 Colin Davis celebrated
his 80th birthday. This two CD set presents him
as a Mozart interpreter in his early thirties in the three
complete Mozart LPs he made for LíOiseau-Lyre with the English
Chamber Orchestra. The Divertimenti were first issued on
SOL 60029, Symphonies 33 and 36 on SOL 60049 and Symphonies
28 and 38 on SOL 266.
of engagement is the most striking feature of these performances.
The English Chamber Orchestra emerged in 1960 but evolved
from the Goldsbrough Orchestra which had specialized in baroque
repertoire. So Mozart was being approached from a chamber
perspective and from awareness of earlier music. Another
key element is Davisí incisive
approach to rhythm. These are performances of great zest
without ever being abrasive. They are also refined without
ever becoming just ornamental, as in the stringsí filigree
work in the first movement of Symphony 28. In its slow movement
the strings are warm, tender and gossamery without becoming
mushy. In the Minuet Davis relishes the beguiling contrast
of upstanding and relaxed manner in alternate phrases while
the Trio is surprisingly fun. The finale contrasts delicate
violins and bracing tuttis with prominent horns.
compared the 1968 recording by the Berliner Philharmoniker/Karl
Bohm (Deutsche Grammophon 453 231-2). Here are the comparative
the outer movements both Davis and Bohm make the first half
but not second half repeats. In the slow movement Davis makes
both first and second half repeats but Bohm only repeats
the first half, so Iíve put in brackets above an exact equivalent
timing. Bohmís first movement is formal, sonorous and rather
strenuously high powered in the tuttis. Davis is
more festive than powerful in the tuttis,
has more momentum and humour, for example in the second theme
(tr. 1 0:42). Bohmís slow movement lingers affectionately. Davis brings
more sense of progression, shape and flow. Bohmís Minuet
is rather portly in the opening of its sections where Davis is
more forthright. Bohmís Trio is similarly starchy where Davis is
dapper. Bohmís finale is a touch careful in the opening violinsí figuration
where Davis shows
a more lithe athleticism. Bohmís second theme is resilient
but with Davis (tr. 4 0:28) itís more optimistic
with the sheen and lilt of his first violins.
Davisí account of Symphony 33 is characterized in
its first movement by clean line, a certain classical detachment
and pleasing phrasing.
His slow movement has a warm dignity, with a sunnier second
section. The tempo seems just right: due measure but not
over indulged. You could say the same of his spruce Minuet
and neat and courtly Trio. The finale offers a delightful
succession of tunes delivered with thematic clarity and lightness
of texture and touch, the strings displaying delicacy and
verve by turns.
compared Colin Davisí recording with the Staatskapelle Dresden made
in 1991 (Decca 475 9120). Here are the comparative timings:
1991 Davis repeats the first half of the finale
but not the second, so the figures above in brackets provide
an exact comparison. The Dresden Davis is more stylish in
the first movement but also more considered. The English
Davis is fresher and more incisive with a sweetly reflective
second theme (tr. 5 1:04) even if not as beguiling
as the Dresden. The sudden, soft passage in
the coda (6:55) remains smooth and sunny where
the Dresden account makes it a more vivid shadow.
the opening of the slow movement the English Davis doesnít
have as rich a stringsí texture as the Dresden but the phrasing
is more flowing, the second section (tr. 6 1:01) simpler,
more affecting in its appeal than the more expressive plaintiveness
of the Dresden. The English Davis development (2:16)
opens more gracefully too. In the Minuet itís the English
Davis who has more lift and thrust, even a touch of cheekiness
while his Trio has a well contrasted quieter, unassuming
flow. The English Davis finale is a bundle of energy with
a light second theme (tr. 8 0:29), not as smiling as the Dresden,
and sweet third one (0:58). The English Davis development
(1:54), slightly languorous, is more expressive
than the Dresdenís
next to Symphony 36, the introduction to the first movement
is finely shaped by Davis: a direct, forthright
opening is followed by a spacious, lyrical response with
the sforzandi rather
understated. The main allegro has an ideal blend of
crispness and lyricism. Davis brings
to the slow movement a touch of dreaminess to its softer
focus, yet the development has an appropriate touch of firmness.
The Minuet is spruce and clear yet relaxed by turns. The
finale is a mix of the sprightly and bracing with always
a clean line and invigorating effect. I compared the English
Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Tate, recorded in
1985 (EMI 5855892). Here are the comparative timings:
brings a majestic, measured introduction opening with a rather
romantically melting lyrical response followed by a lively allegro of
rounded weightiness with fairly beefy horns, trumpets and
timpani. Thereís more progression to Davisí introduction
while his allegro is more spikily assertive. Smoother passages
for woodwind alone
contrast with grittier strings. The whole has more bite but
on the other hand Davis also provides more
poised shaping of the first violinsí motif that dominates
the opening of the development (CD2, tr. 1, 4:22).
finds a smooth, crafted expressiveness for the slow movement
including sensitive attention to dynamic contrasts. The effect
is stylish, even wistful at times, but a little calculated. Davis has
a sheenier flow and sunnier feel yet his climaxes are more
ardent, so his expressiveness seems more heart-on-sleeve.
Again he brings more character to a stringsí motif that is
showcased in the development (tr. 2 2:40).
Minuet has fair bounce and is by turns grand and cajoling. Davisí Minuet has more zip in the louder passages and is more coquettish
in the softer. His Trio has a more comely, carefree flow
where Tate is somewhat formal. Tateís finale alternates a
gratefully reflective sunny quality and vigour. It has excitement
of projection and a chic development. Davis, slightly slower, again reveals more
character, with more sheen and musing quality to the reflective
passages and more bite to the vigorous ones. His development
(tr. 4 2:14), more sharply articulated, introduces
more tension. In sum, Tateís Mozart is more beautiful but Davis gives you more guts. In the first
movement Tate repeats the exposition while Davis does not. Hence the timing above in brackets for exact comparison.
In the slow movement and finale Tate repeats the exposition
but not the second half while Davis makes
38 is the last in this Eloquence collection. Davis makes
the first movement introduction measured and brooding but
followed by a forthright allegro and rigorous development.
Yet the lighter aspects also stand out, such as the first
lyrical response in the introduction, the allegroís
sinuous second theme and even a swashbuckling kind of recapitulation.
The slow movement is dreamier, perhaps a touch too slow but
with plenty of allure and the patient way all the elements
unfold is satisfying. The finale has all the festive bounce
you could desire and a fiery close.
I compared Colin Davisí recording with the Staatskapelle
Dresden, this one made in 1988 (Decca 475 9120). Here are
the comparative timings:
Dresden Davis is more poetic in the softer passages in the
first movement introduction but this latterly becomes a little
mannered in its expansive approach, timing at 3:09 against
the English Davis 3:02 whose approach is more flowing and
shape firmer. The Dresden Davis allegro is lighter,
more expectant whereas the English Davis is more projected
with the stringsí semiquavers more fiery. The English Davisí second
theme (4:01) is light and deft where the Dresden is
more relaxed. The English Davis third theme (4:41)
is more winsome in its fluent progression and continuation.
His development (6:02) begins very light but
soon becomes more rigorous, more so than the Dresden,
and is notable for its clarity of rhythm and texture and
also sense of exploration.
The Dresden slow movement seems very measured
but is notable for its sensitive and dramatic dynamic shading
and warm, tender development. The English Davis slow movement
is more clearly shaped which gives an impression of more
momentum though the exposition at 3:44 is slower than the
Dresdenís 3:34. This also gives the English Davis development
a more wistful and reflective manner.
The Dresden finale alternates light and imposingly
weighty articulation with rigorous and stark tuttis in
the development contrasted with airier woodwind passages.
The English Davis finale has a more energetic feel. The developmentís tutti are
more healthily boisterous with a sense of heroic striving
and the contrasted woodwind passages, featuring fine ensemble,
are a particular delight. The Dresden Davis repeats the first
movement exposition but not the second half. The English
Davis makes neither repeat. The Dresden Davis repeats the
slow movement exposition, the English Davis doesnít. In the
finale both recordings make the exposition but not second
half repeat. The figures in the table above in brackets provide
an exact comparison.
the K247 Divertimento Davis gets
across well the variation of mood in the first movement.
If the more masculine aspects, the accents in particular,
are rather gruffly realized, the lyrical ones are sweetly
revealed, the singing violin lines delicately skating. In
the second movement, the bittersweet gleam to the strings
has an earnest charm. In the first Minuet the horns bring
rawness while both they and the strings have a furtive, questioning
air in the Trio. In the adagio, shot through with
hope despite the overall sadness, weíre in the world of Figaroís
Countess, a heart melting performance. The second Minuet
is a dapper one with a dainty Trio. The andante introduction
to the finale is a little too mistily sentimental but the allegro
assai recovers decorum and lightness of touch for a suitably
the K251 Divertimento Davis brings a robust, perky baroque
manner. In the opening movement a bracing canter meets an
elegant parade. The first Minuetís stateliness is subverted
by its touches of geniality. The third movement has a demure
simplicity and appealing oboe touches as it varies the theme
towards the end. The second Minuet features jocular variations
by solo oboe and violin in turn. Than comes an effervescent
Rondeau and finally a grand and beaming March. Both Divertimenti
were recorded by Sandor Vegh and the Camerata Academica des
Mozarteums Salzburg in 1986-7 (Capriccio 49 368) with more
appropriately modest forces and neater, more stylish pointing
but also more politeness and less internal contrast.
Throughout Davis brings spirited performances which
engage your attention. However, the recordings lack finesse.
Despite their clarity, the bass and overall ambience are
rather dull and the strings in loud passages somewhat glassy.
Nevertheless the brightness and sweetness of the playing
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