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SCO Winds - Mozart: Divertimenti - Europadisc


20 February 2015
Europadisc

In the realm of occasional music written purely for entertainment, no other composer can match Mozart, who wrote such works consistently throughout his career. For whatever their purpose - nocturnal outdoor serenades or the Tafelmusik written to accompany the dining of the great and the good - his works in the genre never compromise on quality, and none of the riches they contain would sound out of place in a concerto or an opera.

An eloquent demonstration comes in the shape of this latest Mozart disc from Linn. Six wind soloists from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra - which has set down so many memorable Mozart discs for this label and others - offer a veritable feast, comprising the first of the great wind serenades in its original sextet version and four of the five Tafelmusik divertimenti for wind sextet.

Led by Maximiliano Martin, the two clarinets, two bassoons and two natural horns of the SCO Wind Soloists combine superb stylishness, period-performance sensibilities and abundant character in performances that are a joy from start to finish. It's nice to see the late Sir Charles Mackerras acknowledged as an inspiration behind this enterprise, and the playing bears all the hallmarks of his guiding spirit.

The main work - the E flat Serenade, K 375 - is more familiar in its expanded version with an added pair of oboes, but in its original guise there's a deliciously 'woody' sound to the work's pungent opening chords as performed here. Both tempo and phrasing are spot-on, bringing a touch of wistfulness as well as some delightful phrase-shaping. There's a palpably vocal quality to the clarinet, horn and bassoon solos in the tender central Adagio, while the accompanimental exchanges between instruments in the decorated reprise of the main theme are brilliantly done. The two Minuet movements which frame the Adagio have an ideal balance of poise and buoyancy, the distinctive sound of the natural horns coming into its own in the Trio of the first Minuet, while in the lively, puckish sonata-rondo Finale the playing is superbly alert.

The four divertimenti which give this disc its title are far from being mere fillers. Each is akin to a miniature symphony, usually in four movements and complete with Minuet. Though originally scored for oboes, bassoons and horns, the substitution here of clarinets for oboes emphasises the music's lyrical qualities without any loss of edge. Each is full of individuality in these excellent accounts.

The three-movement F major Divertimento, K 253, is unusual for its opening Andante, a theme-and-variations movement which fully exploits Mozart's increasing gift for wind writing in music of abundant variety. The latest of these four works is the B flat Divertimento, K 270, tremendously high-spirited and with a formally expansive opening Allegro molto.

In the E flat work, K 252/240a, the 6/8 Andante 'slow' movement is placed at the opening, and - following the Minuet - there's a rare and welcome example of a Mozartian Polonaise which swaggers along splendidly in this account. The disc is rounded off with the earlier B flat Divertimento, K 240, with its lovely Andante grazioso and perky Minuet.

This is a marvellous addition to the SCO's distinguished Mozart discography, guaranteed to bring many hours of pleasure, whether as the 'background' music it was originally intended for, or in more immersive listening. With a finely focused recording that brings out all the timbral riches of the instruments, and detailed notes by Mozart expert Robert Levin, it can be recommended without hesitation.


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