Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade in E flat major K375 [25:49]
Divertimento in F major, K253 [10:40]
Divertimento in B flat major, K270 [10:01]
Divertimento in E flat major, K252/240a [9:30]
Divertimento in B flat major, K240 [10:36]
Scottish Chamber Wind soloists (Maximiliano Martin, William Stafford (clarinets),
Peter Whelan, Alison Green (bassoons), Alec Frank-Gemmill, Harry Johnstone (horns))
rec. 2014, Stevenson Hall, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow.
LINN CKD479 SACD [67:00]
Of all major composers, Mozart arguably had the strongest affinity
with woodwind instruments – and I include the horns as ‘honorary
members’ of that section. Quite apart from the three major works,
K361, K375 and K388, he wrote a host of lighter pieces known as ‘Tafelmusik’,
indicating that they are to be played during meals or refreshments.
The wonderful thing about this music is that, though light, it is
all of the highest quality, and thoroughly characteristic of its composer.
This scrumptious disc from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra wind soloists
gives us one of the major masterpieces, plus four of the earlier entertainment
Perhaps it is slightly eccentric to start a CD specifically entitled
‘Divertimenti’ with a piece called a ‘serenade’
but I’m not really quibbling. It makes for a great programme
and it’s wonderful to have the great E flat Serenade, written
‘con amore’ if any work of Mozart’s was. This piece
is more often heard in its version for Octet: including two oboes
as well as the pairs of clarinets, bassoons and horns that make up
the sextet heard throughout this disc. It should be emphasised, however,
that this sextet version is the original scoring, and that Mozart
added the oboes later on.
Listening to it, I thought at first that I would miss the oboes, and
in one or two places, such as the main melody of the Adagio, I felt
I’d love to hear the greater emotional warmth they would give.
Generally though, it wasn’t a problem, and the playing is so
very beautiful that one quickly begins to revel in the melt-in-the-mouth
homogeneity of tone that these superb players produce.
Another bonus is the use of natural horns; this might attract some
criticism, as the clarinets and bassoons here are modern instruments.
All I can say is that it simply works; the two horn players
are consummate artists, and the occasional snarls that characterise
the stopped notes actually add to the expressive and tonal range of
the music rather than the reverse. A good example of this is the minor
key trio of the first Minuet of K375, which becomes almost sinister
when done in this way.
K253 and K270, which follow, are both from Mozart’s late Salzburg
years, when he was beginning to feel frustrated, and longing to seek
fame and fortune in Vienna. Both are highly entertaining and attractive.
K253 has a set of variations on a good-natured folk-like theme, followed
by a minuet and an allegro. K270 is more conventional in its sequence
of movements, and has a fairly substantial opening sonata allegro.
K252 is perhaps the most attractive of this earlier group, with a
charming opening Andante in 6/8 time, and a Minuet with athletic writing
for the horns, followed, unusually, by a Polonaise. The final Presto
has more enjoyably extrovert writing for the horns.
K240 in B flat completes the disc, and Mozart here again has written
a ‘miniature symphony’ in four movements, of which the
jog-trotting second movement is particularly delightful.
One thing that has been skirted over in the booklet notes is the fact
that all of these earlier Divertimenti were, unlike K375, written
specifically with oboes in mind, and not clarinets. Mozart
had definitely come across the clarinet in his travels, both in London
and Milan. It was when he heard a pair in the great Mannheim Orchestra
that he wrote home bemoaning their absence in Salzburg.
So it would be churlish and downright wrong to disapprove of the use
of clarinets on these tracks – it can be seen as a kind of Mozartean
wish-fulfilment, and musically, it works like a dream because of the
sheer quality of the playing. Even so, it should have been pointed
out to the listener more clearly in the notes.
Anyway, that little ‘beef’ aside, I have to say that I
enjoyed this CD enormously, and I am particularly grateful to have
such a fine recording of the great K375 in its original scoring.
Previous reviews: Brian Wilson & Simon Thompson