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Mozart Symphonies - SCO & Sir Charles Mackerras - MusicOMH.com


25 February 2008
MusicOMH.com
Keith McDonnell
5 Stars

On this disc, Mozart's final four symphonies are given excellent readings under the inspired baton of Sir Charles Mackerras.


The latest collaboration between the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Mackerras is the finest yet, and one would be hard pressed to find better versions of these works on CD.

Mackerras will turn 83 this year, and while most people of that age are winding down, this musical whirlwind is doing exactly the opposite. Everything he touches turns to gold, whether that's in the opera house, the concert hall or the recording studio. No other living conductor I can think of is as versatile or assured in each and every one of the projects that he tackles. Every encounter with his music-making is a privilege and this latest recording is no exception. Indeed he has outdone himself here with a recording of Mozart's last four symphonies that possibly surpasses anything currently available in the catalogue and certainly sets a benchmark for all future recordings of these works.

The orchestral playing throughout is exemplary in every department, Mackerras' use of natural trumpets and horns giving one the best balance of modern and period sound. The first two symphonies, 38 (Prague) and 39 are heavily influenced by The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, and are thus operatic in flavour. The drama leaps from every bar - listen to 39's stately introduction, with its resonant timpani and glorious string dissonances, and hear how this effortlessly dissolves into the most infectious, headlong playing of the allegro. Later, the mellifluous playing of the clarinet, oboe and flute in the Trio takes the breath away.

I thought I knew the 40th inside out, but the entire symphony was freshly-minted here, revealing intricacies and beauties that I'd never noticed before. I've never heard a performance to touch this one, either live or on CD. However, the best is saved until last, a revelatory 41st (Jupiter). Mozart's last symphony, with its majestic opening and eccentric, contrapuntal finale, is an apt summation of the composer's entire symphonic output, and it here receives a performance of white-hot intensity from first to last. The colours that Mackerras draws from the score are kaleidoscopic in their variety, the orchestra playing faultlessly. Anyone who loves classical music has to own this recording - and even though I'm not a betting man, I wager that this will be one of the year's finest recordings.


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Mozart Symphonies 38 - 41Mozart Symphonies 38 - 41