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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 29 in A major (1774) [28:51]
Kassation in G major, K63 (1769) [19:00]
Divertimento in D major, K251 (1776) [25:03]
European Union Chamber Orchestra/Hans-Peter Hofmann
rec. St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn, 26-27 September 2012
BARN COTTAGE RECORDS BCR011 [79:04]

Mozart is an extraordinary phenomenon but there is always a debate surrounding the relationship between talent and genius as far as his youthful compositions are concerned.
 
This particularly well-played collection of performances by the European Union Chamber Orchestra, recorded in clear and truthful sound, finds the young composer developing his powers in compelling fashion.
 
A feature of Mozart’s musical personality in his Salzburg years – the 1760s and 1770s – remains the wonderful collection of dance music that has stood the test of time and still delights and charms us today. Even as early a piece as the G major Kassation, composed when he was just thirteen years of age, has sufficient taste and imagination to make the music most appealing. These characteristics are communicated by the well-judged performance captured here, Hans-Peter Hofmann moulding the phrasing to perfection.
 
The same can also be said of the Divertimento in D major, except that this is a finer work still, from several years later. By 1776, when is was composed, Mozart had turned the corner from talent to genius, from his unique capacity for creative emulation towards an even more extraordinary originality. For this Divertimento is one of the great examples of the evident strengths of entertainment music from this period. The performance seems just right, with tempi and phrasing absolutely appropriate and the scale and balancing of the forces, both strings and winds, eloquently serving the music.
 
It is in the performance of the well-known Symphony in A major that doubts creep in. Celia Pond’s thoughtful programme note suggests this piece might be the composer’s ‘first really great work’. What then of the G minor Symphony, K183? Even so, it is certainly right to enthuse about the A major Symphony, which is a masterpiece in every way.
 
There is more poetry in this score than is experienced here, and from the opening theme onwards. The notes are all present and correct, with tempi that are on the fast side, but the shadings of expression don’t communicate the tenderness that lies at the heart of the first two movements in particular. The approach suits the last two movements rather better, with a strongly rhythmic minuet and a lively finale replete with virtuoso horns as the work moves to its conclusion. 

Terry Barfoot