Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mozart - Concerto Koln







A showcase for the considerable collective talents of Concerto Köln, providing over an hour of superlative playing in performances notable especially for their finesse, clarity, and the wealth of often obscured detail revealed.

The program gets off to a splendid start with a Magic Flute Overture that pays full tribute to both serious grandeur and the Singspiel element, the latter often overlooked in performances that weigh it down with portentous symbolism. Yet the opening is grandly sonorous, with the trombones well in picture. The allegro section opens with imitative entries that are needle-sharp in articulation, fleet-footed in their progress. Throughout, detail is thrown into luminescent relief; listen, for example, to the passage 11 bars after the start of the allegro, where the winds have taken up the counter subject accompanying the main repeated image note subject (at this point in the violins), while bassoons and violas have a rising arpeggiated figure, therefore creating three distinct layers, all clearly heard here. The Overture to The Impresario (surely as much a masterpiece as the Figaro Overture?) is also given a marvelous performance, with the second subject’s bubbling string passagework beautifully balanced against the prominent wind-writing.

The ballet music for Les petits riens is, of course, small beer in comparison. Composed during Mozart’s visit to Paris, it appears to have had its genesis in a project to compose a French opera with ballet music choreographed by the great reformer of ballet, Jean-Georges Noverre. In the event, the opera never materialized, Les petits riens being first performed on June 11, 1778, as an adjunct to Niccolò Piccinni’s intermezzo, Le finte gemelle. Mozart himself claimed in a letter to his father to have composed the overture and 12 of the 20 numbers, the remainder being the work of an unidentified composer (or composers). It is a measure of Mozart’s success in capturing the gracious airiness of the French style that scholars are still unable to agree precisely on which numbers are Mozart’s. Here we are given the overture and 10 other brief numbers, their infectious elegance well caught by Concerto Köln’s affectionate, lively playing.

The glorious Adagio from the K 361 Serenade, taken a little more briskly than usual, not only gives the excellent wind-players of Concerto Köln an eagerly grasped opportunity to shine, but once again shows that with distinctive period-instrument sonorities, this music takes on a burnished glow in a way it can never quite do with modern instruments. So ravishing is this performance that one would relish a complete performance of the work by these players. Both string works, played with a reduced complement, also come off exceptionally well, again with pinpoint articulation, as near perfect intonation as you will hear, and acutely observed dynamics.--Brian Robins


flac, scans

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