Mozart Symphonies 2 - SCO & Sir Charles Mackerras - BBC Music Magazine

This pair of discs follows on from the extremely successful recording with the same conductor and orchestra of Mozart's lat four symphonies, so completing this survey of all Mozart's finest works in this genre, with the exception of No. 25, his first outstanding work in this form. This new set has all the virtues of the previous one: with a small orchestra of excellent players, adept at using ‘period' techniques on modern instruments, the results are most often exhilarating. Clarity prevails, and animation. These are the kind of performances that make it difficult for the listener to sit still. One is impelled to pace or even dance around, to gesture and nod. For Mackerras, these are clearly, as clearly as Bach's Suites, works that derive from the dance.

The actual sounds, though, tend to be raw, sometimes rasping, and the lively tempos mean there isn't a lot of relaxation, even in slow movements. There came a point when I got up and played Bruno Walter conducting the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in the early 1960s, and felt that he gave virtually everything that Mackerras and his players do, but with a glow and warmth which is not to be found here.

With works as protean as this I'm inclined to think that no one approach will always satisfy. If you want some amplitude, without sacrifice of clarity and energy, then of currently available recordings I find Colin David conducting the Staatskapelle Dresden offers a more complete experience. But when you are in a get-up-and-go frame of mind, Mackerras is the man, with rhythm and vigour to the fore.

19 March 2010