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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
March in D major, K237 (1774) [2:53]
Serenade in D major, K203, Colloredo (1774) [37:51]
Divertimento in D major, K251 (1776) [23:11]
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Alexander Janiczek (violin)
rec. Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, 9-11 June 2008. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

This is Janiczek’s second CD for Linn featuring a Mozart Serenade and Divertimento. His first included the Andretter Serenade and Divertimento in E flat, K113 (CKD287, review). Here the Colloredo Serenade is introduced by a March and in this account by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra directed from the violin by Alexander Janiczek exuberance is the order of the day. Here’s full sunlight but with soft glinting contrasts judiciously applied so the effect is never wearing, while shimmers of trumpet and high horn parts provide a brilliant sheen. As in the longer movements of the Serenade but not its Minuets the first section is repeated in this performance but not the second. This is also the practice in the recording I’m using for comparison, that made in 1990 by the Camerata Academica des Mozarteums Salzburg conducted by Sandor Vegh (Capriccio 49368). Vegh’s March is lighter, frothier, with homelier soft passages, more rustic brass and what sounds a smaller body of strings. Vegh gets more humour out of the demisemiquaver/dotted semiquaver figures in the second half but can’t match Janiczek for sheer majestic, scintillant dazzle of sound.

The Colloredo Serenade itself begins luxuriantly with an Andante maestoso but we’re soon into an Allegro assai which delights in skittish demisemiquaver flourishes at the end of its opening phrases. Janiczek supplies a well judged contrast of verve and elegant relaxation though the development (tr 2. 3:34) is certainly spiky with its waspish strings’ descents. Again Janiczek is bolder in effect than Vegh, even if the latter’s flourishes are more genially humorous and softer passages more winsomely petite. Janiczek achieves an attractively mettlesome sweep which also illuminates the structural and stylistic baroque roots of this work.

This is one of the Mozart serenades which features in effect a violin concerto in its central movements, the first of which, an Andante, combines tenderness and firmness. Janiczek’s violin solo, on the ‘Baron Oppenheim’ Stradivarius from 1716, has both style and sweetness and he provides his own cadenzas, tasteful and not overstaying their welcome. It’s all made to seem effortless arioso and is a telling reminder that Mozart himself played the violin as well as the piano. Janiczek brings more dynamic contrast to this movement than Vegh while his projection as soloist is more forthright yet with a purer, cleaner line than Vegh’s more demure and delicate soloist Arvid Engegard. With Janiczek you appreciate the clarity of the whole texture, soloist and backing, while his closing cadenza has a more rapt, contemplative quality than Engegard’s ethereal sweetness.

The next movement, the first of three Minuets, is given an unstoppable momentum by Janiczek in which all’s right with the world. In the Trio Janiczek’s dexterous solo violin comes to the fore again but this is trim enjoyment, not ostentation. Vegh’s Minuet is a little more easygoing in its swing with Engegard’s solo in the Trio making a nimble contrast. In the following cheery Allegro Janiczek is again a little more imposing in character with a more striking cadenza. Engegard is lighter but still vivacious.

In the second Minuet Janiczek makes more contrast of energy and plushness by  weight of tone than Vegh’s more contrasting manner of eagerness and charm. It’s the only movement in which flutes appear instead of oboes and I like Vegh’s spotlighting of flute tone over the doubling first violin in the Trio which clarifies the change of texture, though Janiczek is creamily smooth and more evenly balanced. There’s a more marked change of texture in the following Andante (tr. 7), one of gossamery muted violins over which is layered a chirpy oboe solo with a charming coda in which oboe and first violins exchange pleasantries. Janiczek is more satisfying here in lovely glinting muted string sound and more naturally blithe oboe solo with better observed fp effects on the leaps to the high notes from 0:49.

The final Minuet is from Janiczek by turns outgoing and bashful where Vegh makes it first alert then lolling. Janiczek’s contrast works better because in the Trio, dominated by an oboe solo, the bashful mood is heard to have more thoughtful substance. The ebullience of the very fast finale is both tempered and replenished by its calmer contrasting passages. Janiczek brings more warmth to these than Vegh’s more laid back approach while still maintaining the momentum and catching both the vigour and relaxation ever alternating in this music. In sum Janiczek’s performance is more forthright, less suave than Vegh’s. It has more pzazz, less humour.

The opening movement of the Divertimento in D, K251 (tr. 10) is all energy in Janiczek’s hands, with considerable verve. In this work Vegh’s Capriccio recording comes from 1987 and his more rugged strings get up a head of steam, but his timing of 4:43 is more than matched by Janiczek’s 4:27 with even more spirited playing and yet also more refined tuttis of brighter tone. Janiczek makes the development (2:19) more powerful and bristling but soon becalms this with a more beguiling oboe. The first of two Minuets Janiczek begins in stately fashion but then softens, with a rather cheeky tail and in the second strain it tiptoes back shamefaced towards the opening grandeur. Here it’s Janiczek timing at 4:06 who is more measured than Vegh and I prefer Vegh’s taking the Minuet at more of a swing, though a sturdy one, and his lighter touch to its humour. Janiczek makes it more theatrical but also a bit studied.  His Trio, on the other hand, has a winsome silky quality as a dainty dance for violins with twirling close. Here Vegh has a less refined but easy grace and delight in pirouetting.

Next is a comely Andantino, a smooth parade by Janiczek of greater density than Vegh’s which has a more smiling manner but is rather conscious of its own grace. With Janiczek you appreciate more the oboe’s contributions providing an additional layer to the strings’ introducing the ideas so it seems natural  the oboe finally comes up with a pleasing variation of the catchy theme. Janiczek better marks the closing svelte guise of the theme at Allegretto pace. The second Minuet (tr. 13) Janiczek begins proud and robust, with light drum backing for its opening and closing statements. Its theme is treated to three variations. The first (0:36) has a smooth oboe lead with second violin, viola and bassoon involved accompanists. The second (1:46) features a frisky violin solo from Janiczek. The third (2:56) finds the second violin providing a racy backing to the first with the theme. Vegh’s theme is less high powered but neat and bright enough. His first variation has a merrier, improvisatory feel, his second and third with spotlit violin solos more skittering in manner. Janiczek projects the music more formally but both he and Vegh pleasingly vary the style of the repeats of the theme which come between the variations.

Janiczek and Vegh bring equal élan to the Rondeau finale’s Allegro assai. While Vegh’s smaller forces here create more sparkle, Janiczek is more scrupulous about maintaining the tempo with a perter oboe solo in the second episode (tr. 14 1:39) and a lighter, more ingenuous oboe in the third (3:10). The March comes at the end of this Divertimento so this Linn SACD is framed by Marches. This one is in the French manner, performed by Janiczek with stylish elegance though steadier and more formal than Vegh’s sprightlier pointing. Vegh’s timing at 2:11 looks slower but unlike Janiczek he observes the repeat in the second half, so his equivalent timing to Janicek’s 1:33 is 1:22.

Linn’s surround sound recording of Janiczek at Greyfriars Kirk has vivid immediacy yet also a natural ambience. It’s a wonderfully precise, clean acoustic and also lovely to hear the pristine silence enveloping the solo violin’s cadenzas. In sum this CD offers sheer, straightforward enjoyment served up in a very satisfying manner.

Michael Greenhalgh



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