Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 39 in E flat, KV 543 (1788) [24:30]
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, KV 550 (1788) [25:21]
Symphony No. 41 in C, KV 551 Jupiter (1788) [28:15]
Staatskapelle Dresden/Otmar Suitner
recording data not given but probably 1970s. ADD
BERLIN CLASSICS 0014362BC [78:06]
The first sounds we hear - the grand, imposing opening chords of the E flat symphony - land us unmistakably in the world of big-orchestra Mozart. This is the way the music was usually played before the period-practice movement took it over. The performance style embodies a "vertical" musical aesthetic, drawing expression from tonal mass and harmonic weight, rather than generating momentum and tension "horizontally," through the counterpoint, in the more recent fashion. There isn't a really active, chamber-music interplay among the various musical strands, but nothing of importance actually goes unheard.
Nor are these stodgy readings by any means. Otmar Suitner's mobile tempi are well chosen even if the fast outer movements sometimes try to creep ahead. The shapely phrasing, particularly in the flowing slow movements, is a pleasure. His attention to the music's cantabile impulse makes his renderings more immediately accessible than the monumental Klemperer accounts (EMI GROC, a 3-CD set), while his lively rhythmic sense avoids Josef Krips' squareness (Philips).
Both the performance and the recording of the E flat symphony take in a number of exceptionable details. The climaxes have sounded brighter and more festive elsewhere; here the trumpets' brighter overtones are subsumed in the large, string-based sonority and the deep recorded ambience. The basses tend to lumber, or to straggle behind the main beat; their landing at the first movement recapitulation (5:41) is soggy. The grace notes in the Menuetto are flicked before the beat, the old-fashioned way, rather than played on the beat and accented; the horn phrase in one of the Trio repeats suffers a clumsy ritard. The Finale is shorn of both repeats, losing the "surprise" at the end of the B section. Still, the themes mostly breathe naturally, and the piece goes pleasantly enough.
The other two symphonies sound like the product of a different microphone setup. There's still an impression of "deep" hall space, but the orchestral image is more forward. Within this framework, the winds, perhaps assisted by an extra section mike, register more prominently - almost overbearingly so at higher playback levels - against the large string section. The playing, too, is a bit spiffier, with alert rhythmic address and neatly tapered phrasing; the basses sound more trim, less diffuse.
Suitner's handling of these scores is, once again, fleet and vigorous, which suits the agitated drama of the G minor symphony well. In the Jupiter, the tempi and the sonority sometimes at odds. The Andante cantabile sounds thicker than it needs to, and the Menuetto, while musically guided, is oddly muscular. The Finale's whirl of fugal activity, however, is dazzling.
The lightweight, cardboard-based packaging, embedding a plastic tray for the disc, neither includes a booklet nor allows space for one, suggesting that the "Schätze der Klassik" series, of which this is part, is a bare-bones reissue line. Berlin Classics doesn't supply recording dates and venues, but the fine print includes original publication dates of 1974 for the Jupiter and 1976 for the other two symphonies, along with a SPARS code of ADD.
Stephen Francis Vasta
Suitner's handling of these scores is fleet and vigorous.