Mozart Serenades -

So much of Mozart's life and work is the stuff of myth and legend that it is sometimes easy to forget that he was a practical working composer, dependent upon his music to keep food on the table. This mythological status tends to overrate some of the more workaday pieces in the Mozart canon. Listeners and critics alike overuse superlatives to describe even the most mundane of his works. There are certainly works of pure genius - the G minor piano quartet, the last symphonies and the da Ponte operas jump to mind - and there are pieces like those on this attractive release that are pleasant for their own sake, if not particularly profound.

Opening with a charming march, Alexander Janiczek tips his hat to performance practice by introducing the Serenade in D, the so-called Andretter, with the light traveling music that would have led the musicians and listeners to and from the performing venue. Composed in 1773 for the end of year celebrations at the university in Salzburg, Mozart was abroad with his father when this music was first composed. Scored for a fairly large orchestra including trumpets and a full wind complement, this is a work of varying moods and yet it never really leaves the realm of the light-hearted. Maestro Janiczek proves able as both soloist and conductor, turning in a performance of abounding grace and charm. The string playing is silky and elegant and the winds are very nicely balanced in the mix.

There then follows a handful of shorter works for violin and orchestra, all of which were substitute movements for one of Mozart's five violin concertos. They are tuneful and pleasant, seemingly conceived as entertainments rather than profound musical statements. Again, Janiczek proves to be a most tasteful soloist, generally letting the music speak for itself, and never putting virtuosity in the path of elegance.

The final work is significant in its orchestration, bearing witness to the young composer's recent acquaintance with an instrument that was to become very important in later works, the clarinet. In this charming divertimento he relies more on the instrument's sparkling upper register. The rich deeper tones would have to wait until the Concerto K. 622 and the Quintet K 581. This is also a work in which we see Mozart's transformation from boy wonder to mature composer. The ideas are original and the music is full of the kinds of cadential formulae and melodic contour which we now know as signature Mozart.

The SCO and Janiczek take few risks in these performances. Their readings are fairly straight-forward and predictable, yet at the same time well-proportioned and graceful. If you are looking for some great new revelation you won't find it in either the performances or the music itself. What you will find is more than an hour of perfectly listenable music, perhaps best used by modern listeners as the background and party music it was meant to be in Mozart's day.

Sound quality is absolutely clear, well balanced with a fine presence of sound throughout the dynamic spectrum. Lovely packaging and concise, pertinent notes by Duncan Druce add even more merit to an already fine product.
09 April 2007