This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
We know that, shortly after his arrival in Paris in March 1778, Mozart planned to compose a sinfonia concertante for flute, oboe, horn and bassoon, to a commission from Joseph Legros, Director of the Concert Spirituel, and that he had particular soloists in mind: the flautist Johann Baptist Wendling, the oboist Friedrich Ramm and the bassoonist Georg Wenzel Ritter (all of whom he had met during his stay in Mannheim some months earlier), and the horn player Giovanni Punto (alias Johann Wenzel Stich, a celebrated travelling virtuoso); we also know that the work was not performed in Paris, and that the autograph score disappeared.
It is generally presumed that Mozart's music was the basis of the Sinfonia Concertante in E flat for
oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon which the Mozart scholar Otto Jahn came across shortly before his death in 1869, and which (in a manuscript copy from Jahn's personal library) went to the Preussische Staatsbibiliothek in Berlin after his death) and was subsequently elevated from "Appendix 9" to K297b in Alfred Einstein's 1937 revision of Köchel Thematic Catalogue. In this admittedly dubious guise the work has become familiar in the concert hall and on records during the last 50 years or so. A certain squareness and lack of imagination in the orchestral writing (not to mention the fact that all three movements are, unusually, in the same key, E flat major) seem to betray an alien hand, yet the handling of the solo quartet seems so 'right' that one feels it must be based on genuine Mozart. Perhaps one day the autograph score will turn up and surprise us all; until then we must make do with the anonymous 'arrangement' (for which I confess to having a long-standing affection), or attempt to reconstruct the 'original' on the basis of it.
Nearly 20 years ago Nonesuch issued a recording (1-171068, 12/65—nla) featuring the Saar Chamber Orchestra under Karl Ristenpart of K297b with the solo parts adapted for Mozart's original combination by the flautist Joseph Bopp: a moderately successful solution, moderately well performed. Now Philips give us a far more radical reconstruction of the piece by Robert D. Levin, based on "a recent computer-assisted study" (by Levin and Daniel N. Leeson), which "demonstrates that while the solo parts, to the disputed work are for a different instrumentation than Mozart's original, they display a specific pattern of proportions and thematic content found only in authentic Mozart concertos. We believe [Levin continues in his sleeve-note] that a set of solo parts to Mozart's work somehow survived, and that someone else later transcribed them for the new instrumentation, supplying the missing orchestral accompaniment."
I must admit that, at first hearing, I (obviously conditioned by familiarity with the 'standard' version of K297b) found this new rearrangement hard to accept; but listening to it again proved to be an agreeable surprise, and I suspect that the more one hears it the more one will come to like it. The most radical changes affect the first movement, in which much of the orchestral material (notably in the initial tutti) is re-adjusted and 'tightened up', so that the solo quartet is more actively and more tautly involved, and so that the orchestral contribution is both more succinct and more interesting; but the concluding variations, too, are given more shape by the insertion of repeats after each eight-bar phrase and by the exclusion of the orchestra's insistent (though slightly varied) refrain after each variation; in the central Adagio, too, the orchestral interjections are effectively reduced. The writing for the solo quartet is, as one would expect from what the editors have stated, not substantially different from the accepted version, after due allowance has been made for some very skilful re-distribution of the four parts, though the first-movement cadenza is almost entirely new. So far as the performance is concerned, Mozart himself could hardly have wished for a more virtuosic team, though I doubt very much whether the Concert Spirituel could have even approached the style and expertise of the ASMF under Neville Marriner.
For coupling Philips give us Mozart's Salzburg oboe concerto of 1777 (the original, and more effective, version of the Flute Concerto in D he wrote in Mannheim in 1778) in a performance played and directed by that master oboist Heinz Holliger, even more enchanting than his earlier one with the New Philharmonia under Edo de Waart (backed by the Richard Strauss concerto), also on Philips.
-- Gramophone [6/1984, reviewing the original LP release of this recording]
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Oboe in C major, K 314 (285d) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Heinz Holliger (Oboe)
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Written: 1778; Mannheim, Germany
Length: 19 Minutes 44 Secs.
Sinfonia concertante for Winds in E flat major, K 297b (K Anh 9) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Klaus Thunemann (Bassoon),
Hermann Baumann (French Horn),
Heinz Holliger (Oboe),
Aurčle Nicolet (Flute)
Sir Neville Marriner
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Length: 28 Minutes 22 Secs.
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