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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 39 in E flat major KV 543 – rehearsal and recording
Mozarteumsorchester Salzburg/Bernhard Paumgartner
rec. 1966, Großer Saal des Mozarteums Salzburg. Stereo
BELVEDERE 10146 [74:56]

This release might arguably be seen as something of a niche issue, consisting as it does of eight tracks: a single, fine performance recorded and aired in narrow radio stereo by Austrian Radio ORF in 1966 of a great, late Mozart symphony, remastered by Belvedere records in 2014. Each movement is preceded by rehearsal excerpts which in total take up twice as much time as the playing of symphony itself. Furthermore, interest much surely be restricted to native German speakers or those wholly fluent in that language, as there is no transcription of proceedings. The CD is packaged in a slim cardboard case with a booklet containing two panegyrics of Paumgartner in German and English translations.

I quote with permission here from a review posted elsewhere by a friend who sums up Paumgartner’s importance better than I could thus:

“Arguably one of the most important figures in 20th century music, Bernhard Paumgartner's legacy remains scandalously obscure outside the ranks of the classical music cognoscenti. A polymath and man of vision, Paumgartner almost single handedly transformed Salzburg from a provincial backwater to the cultural capital it is today, playing a key role in the creation of the Salzburg Festival and transforming the Mozarteum into a conservatory of international stature. But perhaps most importantly, he was teacher and mentor to Herbert von Karajan. Indeed, Karajan's many mono-manias, from stagecraft to motorbikes to (later in life) Mahler can be traced back to the mesmeric influence of this great teacher. Yet it was in Mozart that Paumgartner may have left his deepest impression...this is not only a fascinating document of Paumgartner's thoughts on Mozart (ideas which undoubtedly resonated with his most famous student), it is a great performance in its own right.”

Paumgartner established the “Salzburg Mozart Style” which, while employing a large, sumptuous-toned orchestra, eschews grandiose gestures and embraced clarity, detail, precision and proportion above all, as the result of meticulous rehearsal. The music smiles and breathes naturally; even if you have no German, just listening to the painstaking repetition of that grand, stately opening indicted how precisely Paumgartner requests and achieves exactly the effect he wants in terms of note values, dynamics and balances; we are soon deep into the mystical world of Die Zauberflöte. Nothing is exaggerated but everything has purpose and the phrasing exudes a kind of inner beauty, facilitated by the conductor’s illustrations on the piano. The orchestra itself is not as sleek or refined as one of the big outfits and occasionally violin tone is scrawny, but it responds willingly to the conductor’s guidance; the result is of course decidedly “traditional” in comparison to HIP spareness but also graceful and profoundly humane, a model of its kind and hugely satisfying to my ears.

Ralph Moore

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