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Mozart: Symphonies No 33, 35 "haffner" & 38 "prager" / Sylvain Cambreling, Et Al

Release Date: 07/14/2009 
Label:  Glor Classics   Catalog #: 8151   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Sylvain Cambreling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOZART Symphonies: No. 33; No. 35, “Haffner”; No. 38, “Prague” & Sylvain Cambreling, cond; Baden-Baden Southwest German RSO GLOR 8151 (68:18)

& DVD with documentaries and promos

Here is some exceptionally fine Mozart from an unexpected source. Other than a series of recordings of the composer’s Read more early operas, available in a 196-disc Brilliant Classics monster box, and a more recent Marriage of Figaro on DVD, Sylvain Cambreling is not a conductor whose name immediately leaps to mind when one thinks of Mozart. These modern-instrument performances are fresh sounding, crisp, lively, and fleet of foot. Each was recorded with the same orchestra but in a different venue and at a different time: No. 33 at the Bad Ems Kurtheater on June 17, 2006; No. 35 at the Freiburg Konzerthaus on June 21, 2002; and No. 38 at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus on December 12, 2005. This makes for slight differences in the soundstages of each recording, but all are excellent.

Here is one of those trivia questions with which to stump your friends: What do Mozart’s Symphonies Nos. 31, 33, 34, and 35 all have in common? The answer is that none has a first movement exposition repeat. The repeat in No. 38 is observed.

The Symphony No. 33 in B?-Major is not generally addressed in discussions of Mozart’s last half-dozen or so essays in the form, but it’s a real gem, and quite remarkable as well. For its time (1779), it has an unusually lengthy exposition—over two-and-a-half minutes, much of which is given over to an extended closing section. But it isn’t just the length of the exposition that’s atypical; it’s the proportionality of it in relation to the rest of the movement, slightly over a third of its entire duration. The development section also is substantial, introducing as one of its main elements the famous four-note motive (C-D-F-E) that drives the last movement of the “Jupiter” Symphony, and that also appears with some regularity in a number of the composer’s works; one such example occurring in the first-movement development section of the E?-Major Violin Sonata, K 481 (A?-B?-D?-C—different starting note, same intervals, same rhythmic pattern).

The Symphony No. 38 in D-Major, popularly known as the “Prague” for the venue of its first performance on January 19, 1787, is also a bit of an oddity in terms of proportionality and balance. One of Mozart’s three symphonies to have a slow introduction (the others are Nos. 36 and 39), the first movement also has a quite lengthy exposition, due mainly to its thematic generosity and extended modulating bridge passages. The counterbalancing development section is also quite lengthy and fully worked out, even borrowing elements from the exposition’s secondary thematic material, a technique that did not go unnoticed by Beethoven. But then the anomaly: a full-blown Classical symphony that reverts to the Italian sinfonia model of three movements. If it were the Andante that was missing, we could speculate that the slow movement was lost or that Mozart intended to include it but became sidetracked. But alas, it’s the minuet-and-trio that has gone AWOL. The only explanation I’ve come across for this strange omission at this late date—and it’s just conjecture—is that Mozart did not plan on having this symphony performed in Vienna, where four-movement symphonies were the expected norm of the day.

Cambreling’s reading of the “Prague” is fantastic. The timpani, played with hard sticks, stand out with exceptional clarity, and a breathtaking tempo in the first movement’s Allegro gives the impression of notes literally flying off the page. Truly, this is one of the more exciting performances of the work I’ve heard.

All three of the works on this disc are superbly well played and a real joy to listen to, though I’d have to single out the “Prague” as being the best of them. Of course, competition in this repertoire is legion. One of the more interesting recent entries to come down the pike is a two-disc set on Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv with Abbado leading his youth ensemble, Orchestra Mozart, in the same symphonies that are on the current Cambreling CD, plus the Nos. 29 and 41. While Abbado’s musicians play on modern instruments, they take their cue from historically informed period practices. So Abbado is a good choice for those who want to have their cake and eat it too.

Cambreling and his band make some obeisance to the HIP movement, as with the aforementioned hard timpani sticks and swift tempos; but for the most part, the performances are in the best tradition of modern corporate efficiency, which is not a pejorative. There’s much to be said in favor of competence and good organization.

Don’t get too excited about the freebie DVD that comes with the package. It’s basically an infomercial for other Glor Classics DVDs, masquerading as a documentary on Europa Cantata and the making of Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ . The main reason to buy the CD is Cambreling’s Mozart, which is strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 33 in B flat major, K 319 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Sylvain Cambreling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1779; Salzburg, Austria 
Symphony no 35 in D major, K 385 "Haffner" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Sylvain Cambreling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria 
Symphony no 38 in D major, K 504 "Prague" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Sylvain Cambreling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 

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