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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
10th Anniversary Collection
Symphony No.29 in A, K201 [31:08]
Symphony No.31 in D “Paris”, K297 [20:17]
Symphony No.32 in G, K318 [6:39]
Symphony No.35 in D “Haffner”, K385 [20:30]
Symphony No.36 in C “Linz”, K425 [34:41]
Symphony No.38 in D “Prague” [36:47]
Symphony No.39 in E flat [30:02]
Symphony No.40 in G minor, K5503 [34:01]
Requiem in D minor, K626 [39:24]
Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K546 [7:57]
Susan Gritton (soprano), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Timothy Robinson (tenor), Peter Rose (bass)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Chorus/Sir Charles Mackerras
rec. 2002-2009, City Halls, Glasgow, and Caird Hall, Dundee, UK
LINN CKD651 [5 CDs: 310:55]

What a joy it is to welcome back these outstanding recordings of Mozart’s later symphonies from Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra First released on Linn over a decade ago, this box set, coupling symphonies with the Requiem and the Adagio and Fugue, has been released to mark the 10th anniversary (is it really that long ago?) of Sir Charles’s death.

As Donald MacDonald, Life President of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, writes in his affectionate tribute to Sir Charles’s time with the SCO, Mackerras himself described these recordings as “his final thoughts on these great pieces”. Comparing them with his 1991 Telarc set with the Prague Chamber Orchestra, the one thing I notice is that with the SCO he takes considerably more time over each symphony – often quite substantially (the “Paris” Symphony clocked in at 16:11 in 1991, but by 2010 was taking over four minutes longer). Yet they certainly do not feel slow or in any way ponderous; there is great athleticism in, for example, the finale of the 39th Symphony. What has happened is that Mackerras seems more relaxed and measured, able to spend time rooting out the moments of sparkling genius hidden in the music, and his Scottish players are so thoroughly attuned to his approach, that it all sounds beautifully natural and perfectly proportioned. A decade ago these were widely accepted as the finest recorded versions of these symphonies (review ~ review); I would suggest that they still are.

The version of the Requiem is that prepared by the American scholar Robert Levin, and was Mackerras’s first (and only) recording of the work. It was recorded in Dundee’s Caird Hall in 2002, released the following year (and re-released in 2014 to mark the SCO’s 40th anniversary - review) and featured, alongside the SCO, the SCO Chorus and a highly accomplished quartet of soloists of which soprano Susan Gritton was, perhaps, the most impressive with her beautifully pure and graceful tone. I cannot claim to be an unquestioning fan of the Levin completion which, while laudably addressing some of the manifest failings in the famous Süssmayr version, seems to present a few oddities of its own. But this terse and sharply focused performance, highlighting the drama and the incisiveness of the writing, presents as compelling a case for it as any, and it has to be said Sir Charles drew truly outstanding playing from this Scottish ensemble, with which he was closely associated from 1991 until his death.

Marc Rochester

Previous review: Brian Wilson

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