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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade no.10 in B flat major for 13 wind instruments, K.361 Gran Partita [48:16]
Serenade no.12 in C minor, K.388 Nacht Musique [22:08]
Harmonie de l'Orchestre des Champs-Èlysées/Philippe Herreweghe
rec. June 1995. DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI HMG501570 [70:26]

Recorded on original instruments as long ago as 1995, this coupling has already had at least three issues but now appears yet again elegantly repackaged in the "hm gold" series with trilingual notes in a cardboard, black and gold slipcase rather than the usual plastic casing. The sound was always excellent: rich and full with a slight halo of reverberation around the instruments, enhancing yet also softening the blare and bluster of the natural valveless horns so expertly played here by members of the "Harmonie de l'Orchestre des Champs-Èlysées". 

I have never yet heard anything conducted by Philippe Herreweghe that I don't like and he has long been for me the "go-to" conductor to hear HIP with heart, soul and taste, especially in Bach. The performance is pitched at 440 Hz; otherwise we are clearly hearing a period style account with none of the disadvantages sometimes attendant on more zealous period versions.
 
It seems to me that Herreweghe catches perfectly throughout the playful and mercurial admixture of the jolly and the melancholy moods which alternate in this miraculous work. The opening "Largo” starts with a plaintive tune for the clarinet accompanied by almost comical "oompahs", then the "Molto allegro", perhaps not altogether surprisingly, echoes Haydn's Symphony No.31 "Hornsignal". The tubbier timbre of the original instruments lends a certain earthy, agrarian earnestness to the "Menuetto" where ideally we want more urbanity; Marriner with the ASMF plays here with more wit and abandon.
 
The crucial "Adagio" opens with what is surely one of the most heavenly yet unlikely melodies Mozart ever penned, as the oboe floats in over the squeeze-box ostinato. Here, the music is played with classical restraint, whereas Marriner is slightly freer and subtler, allowing the oboe to creep in more delicately. There is no lack of liveliness, however, in the semiquaver passages for bassoon in the "Allegretto" of the fifth movement or the finale. The gorgeous sixth variation of the "Andante", with the clarinet again singing above the watery, bubbling lower voices, has all the gnomic, numinous quality one could wish.
 
The Serenade K.388 is inevitably a mite anticlimactic after such but it makes a good foil to the "Gran Partita" in that it is altogether a livelier, if lesser, affair, again beautifully played. Its "Andante" is especially lovely and reminiscent of the celebrated trio "Secondate, aurette amiche" from "Così fan tutte". This is sensitive, civilised music-making of the highest order.  

Ralph Moore