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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade in B flat major K.361 (Gran Partita) (c.1781/2) [50:32]
Serenade in E flat major K.375 (1781) [26:41]
European Union Chamber Orchestra/Santiago Mantas
rec. All Saints Church, East Finchley, London, November 2015
DIVINE ART DDA25136 [77:21]

It is difficult to imagine that the two great works presented on this CD were originally meant to be heard as ‘muzak’, more than likely al fresco. In fact, I guess that most guests would wander around the gardens of the great courts of Europe and barely be aware that Mozart was being performed. Nowadays, if someone rustles a sweet wrapper, or heaven forfend, a mobile phone should bleep, daggers are (rightly) drawn. It is how music and our world changes. I would now feel a little guilty listening to these Serenades whilst reading or typing up a review!

Mozart’s Serenade in B flat major, K.361 has been recorded many times. There are more than 60 versions currently listed in the Arkiv catalogue. The work is a regular feature of concerts and recitals. Although ostensibly ‘outdoor’ music there is a depth and seriousness about this, the longest of the composer’s instrumental/orchestral works, that demands more concentrated attention. The forces called for, which include two additional horns, two basset-horns and a double bass, suggest that the occasion it was composed for was not in any way trivial or downmarket. In fact, this piece was written to display the composer’s virtuosity in writing for woodwind. The Serenade, given the subtitle of ‘Gran Partita’, is regarded by many as the greatest work composed for the medium. Remarkable features of this Serenade include the symphonic ‘largo’ introduction, the minuet in the minor key and the thoughtful adagio. It is thoroughly pleasurable from the first minute to the last.

A particular feature of this CD is that it contains the ‘premiere recording of [the] complete Serenade’ in E flat, K.375.’ Not being a Mozart aficionado or scholar caused me to read the note on the cover twice. Surely I have heard this piece before? The Arkiv catalogue convinces me that I have not been dreaming There are some 36 recordings of this work: all seem to have the required five movements. What has been missing since 1781 that has only been supplied by the European Union Chamber Orchestra under Santiago Mantas? Fortunately, the excellent liner notes give the full story. The five movement Serenade was composed in 1781 in Vienna, as a wind sextet – two each of clarinets, bassoons and horns. The following year, Mozart rescored the work for Octet by adding a pair of oboes: some alterations were also made to the music. For example, the composer added ‘seven bars recapitulation of the rondo’s principal theme.’ So far so good.

The original holograph of the Sextet is in the Prussian State Library in Berlin. Only the 1st, 3rd and 5th movements are in Mozart’s hand. The two Minuets are by a copyist. The entire score was used by Aloys Fuchs (1799-1853) in his edition, which seemed to perpetuate a couple of errors. Karl Haas, a musicologist and conductor discovered that the 19th bar of the second minuet was faulty. The only solution for the logic of the music was to cut the bar out. The fault had been transferred into the Octet version. Another important issue was the suppression of the second trio from this Minuet. Haas recorded this minuet, in the sextet version with restored second trio in a 1959 recording he made of the Serenades (Octets) No.11 and No.12 for the Pye Label (CCL30119). He intended to include the ‘lost’ trio in the Octet version the next time he recorded the work. Alas, his death denied him this opportunity.

The present recording has indeed restored the ‘second trio’ and has also excised the faulty bar. So, some 57 years on we have the corrected version of the Serenade in E flat major. If I am honest, I probably would not have noticed the changes, unless I was following with an older score, as it is not a work I am particularly familiar with. On the other hand, it is good to know that the corrections have been made and finally recorded.

The European Union Chamber Orchestra and their conductor Santiago Mantas for this enterprise, give an excellent performance of these two works. There is excitement, occasional melancholy and almost constant delight and enjoyment. They are up against considerable competition for both works. However, the above noted corrections to the score make this a valuable version to possess.

John France


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