Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791): Divertimenti K. 136, 137, 138 and K. 251. Performed on "period instruments" by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, directed by Ton Koopman. Originally published by Erato Disques; rereleased on Apex at budget price. Total playing time: approx. 72 minutes.
The totally contrary opinions of other reviewers of this recording demonstrate the subjectivity of musical appreciation. For my part, I found this interpretation of Mozart's "Salzburg Symphonies" (as they are sometimes known) fascinating, while agreeing that the Andante slow movements of two of the three works are here taken at a fairly relaxed tempo which seems to make Mozart a lot older than he was, namely 17, when he composed these pieces. However, I have no doubt that Ton Koopman chose these tempos based on his vast knowledge of 18th century music, and the overall effect is one of contrast between the lively outer movements and the more contemplative inner ones. The quality of the engineering is impeccable, making this recording infinitely more instructive and entertaining than the similarly priced Naxos version by the Capella Istropolitana: K. 136 through 138 are written for strings only, and here you can here not only the first violins, but also the violas and the bass line perfectly clearly. - The six-movement Cassation K. 251 adds horns and oboes to the strings, creating a delightful sound which works extremely well with period instruments (meaning, presumably, valveless horns). Another reviewer has slammed the engineering here, claiming that the horns were treated harshly, but could it be that this impression was due to the equipment used? I have just been enjoying this piece on Swiss-made Ergo AMT earphones attached to a CD player and amplifier by NAD and a Benchmark digital to analogue converter and I felt that the horns (there are surely two of them) sounded extremely natural, just as one would expect at a concert where the horns, although normally placed behind the strings and the oboes, are loud enough to dominate. I have no complaints whatsoever here, the sound is exquisite. K. 251 is comparatively rarely heard, and at budget price this recording is a real bargain.