This two CD set compiles the contents of two previous Mozart releases made by Roy Goodman and the Hanover Band for Nimbus in 1990: NI 5228 and NI 5259. The programme is quite diverse, if a bit random, ranging from Symphonies No. 40
, the Piano Concerto No. 20,
the Serenata Notturna,
the Basset Clarinet Concerto,
and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
These are period instrument performances. Tempos are generally swift but unhurried. While die-hard HIP fans might disagree with me, I was particularly pleased to hear string sections play with a judicious use of vibrato. I agree that vibrato-less strings can deliver a certain purity of tone, but I prefer my Mozart with a little more sweetness.
The first disc gets off to a rough start with the Symphony No. 41 Jupiter
. All of the performances on the two CDs were recorded at an echo-friendly All Saints’ Church in Tooting, London. Right off the bat the Jupiter
suffers from excessive reverberation that muddies the sound, exaggerates the horns and gives the violins an anaemic quality. The sound is slightly improved in the Piano Concerto No. 20
, perhaps due to different microphone placement. We are at least allowed to hear the orchestra and soloist with better clarity and presence. Fortepianist Christopher Kite gives a decent performance, but I found the tone of his instrument to be rather lacklustre.
In comparison, just sample the more colourful sounds produced by fellow fortepianists Ronald Brautigam (BIS BIS-CD-2014, 2013) and Malcolm Bilson (DG Archiv E4631112, 2001). The Serenata Notturna
, given a lively and spirited treatment, was the most enjoyable work on CD 1 but would have fared better with less echo. CD 2 continues in the spirit of its predecessor with too much reverberation again present on all the works, though marginally less so in the concerto recording.
The G minor Symphony No. 40
sounded more relaxed and lacked the momentum and intensity heard in the recordings of Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Linn CKD308, 2010) - historically informed but on modern instruments - or Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the RCO (Warner Classics 5046682882). Soloist Colin Lawson ably performs the Basset Clarinet Concerto
, though I would go for the Martin Frost recording with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta for a more characterful and far better sounding alternative (BIS BIS-SACD-1263, 2003). Lastly, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
is presented here in five movements rather than the usual four, the difference being that an orchestration of the minuet of the Piano Sonata K. 498a
(at the suggestion of Alfred Einstein) is now interposed between the original first and third movements. While perhaps intellectually interesting to some, this really does not add anything to the overall work. I find that it makes for an awkward, unnatural transition between the first three movements. As with the Jupiter Symphony
, the reverberation makes the strings sound thin and metallic.
Having enjoyed the Hanover Band’s incomplete Haydn symphony series on Hyperion (now reissued on the budget Helios label), I was greatly looking forward to reviewing this compilation. Sadly, I found it a disappointment, with performances that did not impress and sonics that were overly reverberant and recessed. There are simply more musically and aurally captivating recordings out there for these works.
Masterwork Index: Piano concerto 20
~~ Symphony 40
~~ Symphony 41