Notes and Editorial Reviews
This release marks conductor Ivor Bolton’s maiden recording voyage with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, whose helm he has recently assumed as music director. The results bode well for the future of the collaboration.
These renditions might best be summed up as good examples of the positive influence of the “authenticist” movement on Mozart performances using modern instruments. The first few bars of the G-Minor, which opens the disc, give a fair précis of what’s to come: phrase endings (and beginnings) nicely tapered; textures refreshingly transparent from top to bottom, however thick or thin the scoring; winds more to the fore than with the “old school” of Walter, Böhm, et al. The quasi-ostinato figure in the
lower strings is articulated a bit more aggressively than in most performances I’ve heard, enhancing the quality of tense agitation that pervades this score; and the brassy cutting edge on the horns is, to my ears, delightful (perhaps predictably, for a reviewer whose “home team” orchestra is the Chicago Symphony). In general the tempos in both works are mid-consensus range in outside movements, on the quick side in inner movements. The savage minuet of the G-Minor is light-years away from the dance floor, and this is acknowledged in Bolton’s reading with lightning pacing that thumbs its nose at Mozart’s “Allegretto” and puts me in mind of my very first recording of this work, a 1970s-vintage Nonesuch LP conducted by Günter Wand, which drew some criticism on this point. Some listeners will find Bolton’s tempo similarly objectionable; I don’t in the least.
As to the “Prague,” it’s always seemed a bit of a shame to me that this work had the misfortune of being written at the end of 1786 instead of the summer of 1788; otherwise, the trilogy we know as Mozart’s “Big Three” would undoubtedly be the “Big Four,” this work being worthy in every respect of comparison with its later brethren. Annotator Gottfried Franz Kasparek compares the adagio opening with the Magic Flute overture; to my mind, the more apt comparison is with that of Don Giovanni, premiered in Prague a few months later. Aside from being cast in the same key, both works feature “trick” passages in their respective introductions, where the listener is led to expect the onset of the main allegro and is instead treated to a second, more harmonically intense adagio episode. Whether Bolton is paying conscious attention to this parallel must remain a matter of speculation, but one can well imagine so; the tension is definitely cranked up a notch at the critical transition point in this rendition of the “Prague.” All the felicitous qualities already noted with reference to the G-Minor are equally in evidence here.
It remains to be noted that the treatment of repeats is in accord with current mainstream consensus; that is to say, all are observed excepting those in the reprise of the 40th’s minuet. These include a second-half repeat in the finale of the “Prague” that is absent in the Breitkopf edition but has, I believe, been authenticated by more recent scholarship; in any case, it does help redress the balance between this relatively brief movement and the expansively scaled opening Allegro.
Sound quality is well up to contemporary standards; annotation is adequate, but pays a lot more attention to the performers than to the music. Which may be just as well under the circumstances; the notes allege that the 40th was the “first” of the 1788 trilogy, whereas it is in fact the second. As to the purchase prospects of this release, its midlevel pricing will be attractive; its appearance on a relatively obscure label may constitute something of a handicap. But buyers who do manage to connect with it will be well served, be they first-and-only basic repertoire collectors or connoisseurs. Quite recommendable.
FANFARE: James Carson
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 40 in G minor, K 550 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra
Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria
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