Notes and Editorial Reviews
This very apt coupling of Mozart's two late symphonies named after cities is surprisingly rare. Karajan provides it in his smooth Berlin performances for DG, and there is a Japanese version from Denon listed in the CD catalogue from Otmar Suitner, which I have not heard, but neither is a direct competitor with this latest in Jeffrey Tate's highly illuminating series of Mozart symphonies with the ECO. The comparison that has seemed most relevant has been with Sir Neville Marriner and the St Martin's Academy in the performances of both works in his complete set of the symphonies (6769 054, 7/81). If ever Philips gets round to issuing the fifth CD separately of the recent boxed set of Nos. 21 to 41(412 954-2PH6, 11/85) then both works will
come with the Minuet K409 and the introduction which Mozart wrote for the "Symphony No. 37" otherwise by Michael Haydn, an attractive grouping.
The contrasts between Tate and Marriner are striking, for though Marriner's performances are consistently more polished and elegant with very refined pointing and ensemble, Tate's are the ones which grab the ear from first to last in their individuality and sense of spontaneity, the ebb and flow of tension. I suspect that Tate's string ensemble is smaller than Marriner's. Certainly it sounds so, for the warm and forward HMV recording gives the woodwind unusual prominence, and it would be idle to pretend that the ECO violin tone is anything but thin in exposed passages. But what matters is Tate's flair, his unforced ability to treat passages or whole movements not in a safe way, apt for any Mozart symphony, but with special concern for a particular and individual argument. The woodwind balance itself helps to highlight two magic moments that are symptomatic, as when in the central development of the finale of the Linz, the bassoon and oboe followed by the viola (a solo instrument as it sounds here) skip on to the stage in imitation one after the other, a delightful interplay. Similarly, in the recapitulation of the central slow movement of the Prague Tate brings out, in a way I have never noted before, the extraordinary layout of flutes, oboes and bassoons at bar 105 with the flutes in octaves on high Fs and Es and the bassoons in octaves on low As and G sharps with the oboes in thirds in the middle, an amazing sound.
In the outer fast movements I cannot imagine anyone objecting to Tate's individual pointing, for the sense of live communication is exhilarating. For myself I find his treatment of slow movements equally sympathetic, but they are certainly more controversial, for at speeds slower than usual his expressive moulding of phrase brings out emotional tensions, notably the menace and mystery of the sudden, often daring minor-key modulations, which here convey surprise as they must have done to early audiences. Some, I suspect, will find the result overpointed, but I can only report quite a different response to music-making so refreshing and involving, not at all mannered. As in his other Mozart symphony recordings Tate is very generous with repeats, with slow movement repeats observed as well as those in outer movements, making the central Andante of the Prague 141 minutes long, almost exactly the same as the first movement, in which the Don Giovanni overtones are strongly brought out with the dramatic expectancy of operatic music. The excellent full sound is particularly commendable considering the extreme length of sides.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [1/1986]
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title