Mozart Symphonies 2 - SCO & Sir Charles Mackerras - Audiophile Audition

I had hoped that after Linn's last release of these forces playing the last four symphonies of Mozart that Mackerras was re-examining the master in a more in-depth way, a second go-around after his popular but (to me) misguided complete set on Telarc that used the harpsichord. That set also now appears far more dogmatic and stale, a one-size-fits-all approach that I don't think has held up well over time.

This release does and will.

This is some of the best Mozart I have ever heard, and to start with the last first, the only-or one of the very few-"Linz" symphonies that can stand comparison with Bernstein. Though I will admit that Mackerras's quick minuets are just a little too rapid for my taste-scherzo had not yet become the norm, and I am quite sure Mozart had a danceable tempo in mind for most of them-I do wish that a stately pace had been taken. But this is a quibble as Mackerras is still able to sell the movements, and especially in the "Linz" the first movement is so beautifully crafted, along with a perfectly proportioned and exciting finale, that all else is forgiven, and forgiven easily.

If I had to say so, it is the "Haffner" that is probably the weakest here, but that is a very relative term, useful only when compared to my two favorites, Szell and Iona Brown on Hanssler, one of the most underrated recordings in existence. No. 32 is wonderful, sprightly and upbeat.

No. 29 was a complete surprise-I just wasn't expecting the laid-back Karl Bohm-like approach to this work. Mackerras luxuriates in this most lyrical of Mozart's early works, and takes all the advantage of the A-major sunshine that is build into this piece. The Andante especially is a marvel to hear, with robust and gorgeous wind playing.  No. 31, the "Paris" symphony that Mozart wrote for great effect-the audience was said to have broken out in applause at some of the more appealing passages in the first movement-is here given the full crowd-pleasing treatment, not trying to make any of Mozart's sometimes more egregious play-ups to the audience profound or deep, but instead just emphasizing all the more the great fun there is to be had in this barn-burner of a work.

The Scots are true Mozart-heroes at this point, having proved that point many times over with their many recordings. This is first-rate Mozart all the way, essential for anyone serious about the composer. Need I mention that the sound is terrific?

Audiophile Audition
31 March 2010