SCO - Mozart Divertimento & Oboe Quartet - Limelight
If ever despondency about the current state of the recording industry sets in, take a dose of Linn Records and the symptoms should disappear immediately. While elsewhere the grim pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey survival strategy of the major labels lunges from indignity to mortification to crossover classics and teenage sensations, this 30-year-old boutique Scottish independent is embracing the digital era with joy, integrity and even an endearing hint of swagger. With its consistently state-of-the-art recording quality and mouthwatering audio smorgasbord of download formats, all of it accompanied by a real sense of engagement with its customers, it's generating a brand-loyalty and sense of anticipation with each new release that takes you back to when you were a kid buying your first recordings.
It helps that Linn's series with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra has been so beautifully played and recorded, a trend that continues in this 14th release in the series, the seventh Mozart disc. The welcome surprises begin with the improbable March K445, not so well known but as engaging an opening track as you could wish to hear. Its natural buoyancy makes you feel happy, right from the get-go. Frequent SCO Guest Leader Alexander Janiczek directs from the violin with his customary sweet tone, his bucket-loads of energy and style never lapsing into affection, filled with life but never lacking refinement.
It's an ideal approach for the centrepiece Divertimento K370, played one instrument to a part and with natural horns for the last word in historical authenticity, but with a sparkling contemporary sound nonetheless. It's a very long work but the attention never wavers here, and the final two movements are as perfect a blend of golly-gee audio engineering mixed with genuinely characterful fast playing.
If it seems strange that as popular a work as the Mozart Oboe Quartet K370 comes last. Robin Williams' oboe tone is lovely, and plenty of other labels would have this front-and-centre as the headliner. But my-my, aren't we lucky to be vaguely critical of such a solid performance, simply because of the elite company that it keeps.