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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade No. 10 for winds K. 361, “Gran Partita”
LSO Wind Ensemble
rec. live, LSO St Luke’s, October 2015
LSO LIVE LSO5075 SACD [47:43]

After the LSO Strings’ recent recordings for LSO Live (review), the LSO winds have followed suit with what is, as far as I can see, their debut recording. And what greater work to begin with than Mozart’s wonderful Gran Partita? It’s a two-fold sign of their ambition that they have gone straight for this summit of the wind repertoire: firstly because of its challenges, and secondly because there is so much competition out there for it.

They stack up pretty well in the field. The recorded sound is lovely and they use the friendly acoustic of LSO St Luke’s very much to their advantage. They also play the version that uses a double bass at the bottom, and you can hear that particularly convincingly at the start of the third movement.

Their playing is characterful and masterful throughout. However, it’s also rather “standard”, and it doesn’t have a huge amount to make it stand out from the competition. The first movement is amply energetic and the Menuetto of the second movement moves with great charm. The famous Adagio third movement unfolds with a gently rhapsodic feel, unhurried and blissfully living in its own moment, with particularly impressive oboe tone. The second Menuet has a beautifully rustic tone to it, sounding as much like a peasant wedding as I've ever heard it. The Romance is more emotionally intense than the first Adagio, and has a wonderfully poignant sense around the upper lines. The variations are strongly played, with a beautiful, singing oboe line developing as the movement progresses, and the finale is full of bounce.

All of which is very good, but the performance doesn't really have enough to make it stand out.  It doesn’t have the juice of Herreweghe’s period performace (review), for example, nor the great (some might say too great) character of Jack Brymer’s 1962 recording with the London Wind Soloists. It’s also dangerously uncompetitive to offer the serenade alone without a coupling, and not even at bargain price.  Still, it’s good nonetheless, and those with surround sound will probably be more tempted.

Simon Thompson



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