Jirí Belohlávek is a hard conductor to pin down. In the late-Romantic music that most Czech conductors seem understandably duty-bound to make their specialty, he often sounds soft-edged, a gentle soul lacking both energy and character. On the other hand, in response to the usual nonsensical local politics, he formed his own chamber orchestra, the Prague Philharmonia, which he has trained to an impressive standard. They have made some attractive recordings for Supraphon, but it's probably fair to say that this release represents something of a coming of age as the partnership between conductor and ensemble celebrates its 10th anniversary. These are Mozart performances of stunning,Read more opalescent beauty, which is to say that they display uncommon polish, depth, and fire.
Like so many ensembles these days, although Belohlávek's group uses modern instruments, they take some cognizance of period-performance practice, observing all repeats and adopting generally lively tempos. Timpani use hard sticks, and string vibrato, while thankfully not absent, is tastefully restrained. But what makes these interpretations special is the exceptional quality of the playing. String articulation is simply marvelous. In the outer movements of both symphonies, tempos are chosen for maximum rhythmic clarity, while shapely phrasing ensures an ideal combination of excitement and elegance. The finale of the Haffner, for example, isn't as quick as some other, more frantic versions, but it's as fast as the violins can articulate their rapidly moving passagework, and their collective virtuosity generates far more energy in the long run than the frequently encountered mindless rush to the finish line.
Atop this marvelously flexible and expressive body of strings, Belohlávek has a wonderful Czech wind ensemble, a tradition of playing arguably more authentic than what many period-instrument groups offer. In the Linz Symphony he takes note of Mozart's unusually free-ranging writing for the bassoons (the work omits both flutes and clarinets), and he underscores those long, singing vocal melodies in the slow movement with particular poignancy. Internal balances always keep the textures transparent, with even subsidiary motivic work meaningfully touched in. Trumpets and drums have the necessary weight but never turn crude. In short, this is as close to perfect Mozart playing and conducting as we have any right to expect, and the rich sonics bathe the performances in a just the right amount of spacious warmth. If you love Mozart, you will love this disc. [10/6/2005]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Reviewing original release, Harmonia Mundi 901891Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 35 in D major, K 385 "Haffner"by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Excellent MozartDecember 15, 2012By H. Hurley (Round Rock, TX)See All My Reviews"I am a big fan of Belohlavek's conducting, the orchestra and recording are wonderful as well. You will enjoy this!!"Report Abuse