Mozart Symphonies 2 - SCO & Sir Charles Mackerras - The Sunday Times

This is the second volume of Mackerras's latest thoughts on the finest of Mozart's mature symphonies. The first concentrated on the final four masterpieces, to which are now added the "Haffner", "Linz" and three of the most distinctive symphonies Mozart wrote before his move from Salzburg to Vienna in 1781. The delectable little A major (No 29) is arguably Mozart's first masterpiece in the genre. The festive D major (No 31) was written shortly after the death of his mother on the fateful visit to Paris in 1778 (a calamity that barely registers in this urbane music). Mackerras gives us the option of both the slow movements Mozart wrote for the symphony, one in 3/4 time, now thought to be the original, the other in 6/8. Then comes the curious two-movement "Sinfonia" in G, sometimes thought to have been written as an opera overture (it is often used as such to launch the unfinished Singspiel Zaïde of the same year, 1779). It's good to have Mackerras's stylish readings of these relatively neglected works, but the Haffner and Linz are magisterial accounts of much-recorded music. Mackerras seems to find exactly the right tempo for each movement - the deliciously witty presto finale of the Haffner goes with irresistible zing - and revels in the festive spirit of the big outer movements, with trumpets and kettledrums. The SCO is a modern band, but Mackerras favours the rustic rasp of natural brass instruments here, to wonderfully earthy effect. Those who bought the last instalment will not want to miss this outstandingly well-engineered sequel.

14 March 2010