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SCO Winds - Mozart: Divertimenti - MusicWeb International


01 February 2015
MusicWeb International
Brian Wilson

I had two classic recordings of K375 in mind before listening to this recording.  One will not be to all tastes since it dates from Otto Klemperer's later years...K375 was recorded at his very last session in 1971 and it is taken at a sedate pace. 

Jack Brymer and the London Wind Soloists on the Decca set of Mozart's complete wind music, on the other hand, take us through the work at a sprightly pace: their version of the opening allegro maestoso takes 7:15 against Klemperer's 8:03, though the difference actually sounds greater than that.  So Klemperer was slow and lumpen and that proves it.  Hold on a moment, though: there are two parts to that tempo indication and Klemperer is definitely maestoso, so arguably closer to what is required. 

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra wind soloists on the new recording are, it seems, with Klemperer on this, taking 10:26, which doesn't mean slower still because they observe more repeats, but it does mean that their basic concept of the movement is closer to Klemperer's than to Brymer's.  Christopher Hogwood with the period-instrument Amadeus Winds is of like mind, observing the repeats and taking 10:52 over this movement.  Sabine Meyer, too, with the Sabine Meyer Wind Ensemble, takes the movement at a fairly deliberate pace as do the Holliger Wind Ensemble, originally on Volume 5 of the Philips complete Mozart Edition. 

K375 is a comparatively large-scale work and it can certainly take such a grand view of the opening movement but the Scottish players are no slouches in the minuet and trio and the closing allegro.  Overall I enjoyed this performance as much as any - it's slightly less sedate than Klemperer, with more character than Meyer or Holliger and easier to live with than Amadeus Winds if you're not attuned to their fairly early recording of period wind instruments. 

The SCO players don't rush the Divertimenti either: once again they are slightly slower in K253 than their London counterparts and here too, the music can readily take a more sedate approach.  These Divertimenti were written to amuse Archbishop Colloredo but performances as good and as enjoyable as these remind us that there's much more to the music than mere amusement. 

The recordings of Mozart's late symphonies which Sir Charles Mackerras made with the SCO towards the end of his career are one of the glories of the Linn catalogue.  Without suggesting that these new performances of Mozart's lighter music are quite in that category, they are very fine in every respect: performance, recording and presentation all make this a very worthy successor to the earlier Linn/SCO recording of the Serenade, K185 and Divertimento, K113 (now re-numbered as BKD287 - review).  

I listened to the 24/96 and mp3 downloads from hyperion-records.co.uk and both are very good of their kind, with a clear advantage in firmness to the former.  The album is also available on SACD and in mp3, 16/44.1, 24/96 and 24/192 lossless from linnrecords.com, with pdf booklet in both cases. 

All the music is performed in wind sextet format - the Serenade also features in a later octet version, but there's very little to choose between them.  If I must single out two performers from the six it has to be Alec Frank-Gemmill and Harry Johnstone who have made a speciality of playing the natural horn, a most difficult beast to master - they are pictured with it in the booklet. The horn parts of these divertimenti may be less demanding but Frank-Gemmill and Johnstone's playing and that of all their SCO colleagues is equally worthy of praise.  These players have been making a speciality of performing wind-band music in recent years.  I hope that we shall have more recordings of them in that repertoire. 


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