SCO - Mozart Divertimento & Oboe Quartet -

A joy from beginning to end.

Opening with the brief March, Alexander Janiczek (directing from the first violin part) quickly set out their stall in the way they respect this relatively early Mozart (the first violin part is quasi-concertante by comparison with the rest of the strings) and like the following Divertimento, the string quintet (quartet with added bass!) is joined by a pair of (natural) horns (played by Pip Eastop & Harry Johnstone). The decision to use natural horns is thoroughly vindicated with the balance being far easier to obtain without constricting the dynamic or tonal range of either horns or strings.

The Divertimento has 6 movements comprising of an opening sonata form Allegro, a set of variations (which Linn has given one track to each of the theme and following 6 variations), a Menuetto & Trio, an Adagio, a Menuetto & "double" Trio and a concluding Rondo finale. In the notes, Linn make the connection with the previous releases (both from Janiczek and Mackerras) but it is apparent that Janiczek is far less of a HIP purist than Mackerras. The two most obvious examples of this trait are the far more consistent application of vibrato to the melodic lines and the fact that the string quartet is sat (left to right): violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello. The seating matters far less than in more mature Mozart as most of the string writing is: violin 1 - tune, everyone else - accompaniment (often rhythmically together).

Like the Zimmermann Trio's recording of Mozart: Divertimento K.563 - Trio Zimmermann, the tone of the strings is pure but radiant. Tempo choices are universally sensible - at no time do the players try to draw attention to themselves with a "profoundly" slow adagio nor dazzlingly fast allegros. The Menuetto's dance away and the Trio's have a barely perceptible relaxation in tempo that creates a beautiful contrast in mood on top of that written in the score. There is no overt virtuosity on display for these players (all principals of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra) put themselves entirely at the service of Mozart's delightful score. The Rondo finale underlines the finesse and delicacy (without perfuming the music) of the playing and cannot fail to place a smile upon the face of even the most jaded listener.

To conclude their programme, the horns, second violin (Ruth Crouch) and double bass (Nikita Naumov) depart to be replaced by their colleague Robin Williams (oboe) for Mozart's gorgeous oboe quartet. There are several other versions of this work on SACD played with modern instruments (as well as Mozart: Quartet & Quintets - Kuijken String Quartet on period instruments). As in the Divertimento, each player plays with a radiant tone that is enormously pleasing to the ear. Tempos are again judged to perfection and in common with everything on this disc, the musicianship is engaging without ever deflecting from the glorious invention of Mozart.

The sound from Linn is just about as perfect as one could wish for in multi-channel presentation - one is completely unaware of the medium and just hears music, beautiful music.

If only every disc good be as good as this one...
17 February 2012