Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No.40 in G minor, K550 (1788) [31:02]
Lucia Silla, K135 (1772) [7:18]
Ballet Music from Idomeneo, K367 (1781) [13:20]
Kontretanz, K123 [1:19]
Menuetto cantabile (Adagio), K463 [2:07]
Kontretänze, K462 (Nos 5 & 6) [1:27]
Kontretanz, K123, reprise [1:28]
Amanda Forsythe (soprano)
Apollo’s Fire/Jeanette Sorrell
rec. April 2008, St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland Heights, Ohio; April 2003, live concert (Dances only). DDD
AVIE AV2159 [61:05]

Apollo’s Fire is described in the booklet as The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra and it is a well disciplined and stylish ensemble. I have never been one for original instruments but on the strength of this performance of K550 I am willing to give it a chance. Having just been listening to Malcolm Sargent’s 1927 recording of the work this performance was like drinking a glass of ice cold water after a couple of pints of Winter Warmer. Jeanette Sorrell directs a nicely paced – very sensible tempi throughout – performance, with a keen ear for sonority and balance. She is helped by a marvellously clear and bright recording which allows every strand to be clearly heard. There’s fire and passion in the outer movements, with the exposition repeats taken in both; the second repeat is also observed in the finale, which add to the dynamic of the performance. The slow movement is a fastish Andante which makes the music flow very gracefully and the minuet is a stamping, deliberate, dance. It all bodes well for a fine performance and the playing is excellent but why, if this is supposed to be a performance in the original manner, does Ms Sorrell indulge in big romantic rallentandi at cadential points. This is done not just at the end of movements but during their course – such as the slowing during a silence at 8:18 of the finale, or the very mannered rubato at 4.38 of the same movement. It seems that Ms Sorrell has worked these obtrusions into her interpretation and instead of pure Mozart we get an original performance channelled through a late 19th/early 20th century performance mentality. If one was listening to the Sargent 1927 recording you’d expect such actions, but not when listening to a contemporary original instruments performance. What this proves is that you can use original instruments but you can never clear the mind of subsequent performance practice. The sound is fabulous.

Ms Sorrell’s delight in rallentando suits the Lucia Silla recitative and aria much more than the Symphony for here is dramatic music which is tailor-made for the demands of the opera house. The words demand a freer style than one would have for a concert work. Amanda Forsythe is a brilliant soloist, making light of the difficult part, and flying above the stave with ease. She also has a pure voice devoid of all wobble. Each note is clearly pitched and delivered flawlessly. This is magnificent.

The Ballet Music from Idomeneo and the little dances all receive good performances, with just the right amount of emphasis placed on the delightful chit–chat of the discourse. This disk has much to commend it, not least very stylish performances but, for many, the huge romantic rallentandi might be a touch too much to bear. The booklet contains an interesting essay by Ms Sorrell on Salzburg to Vienna: Ten Years of Triumph and Tragedy. There’s also a full text for the aria, with a translation. The notes are printed in English, French and German.

Bob Briggs

Very stylish performances.