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Mozart: The Late Symphonies [Box set]

Peter Maag Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 28.97 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Audio CD (18 Dec 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Arts Music
  • ASIN: B0000YO63I
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 475,461 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. The Late Symphonies - Over 30 Tracks On 4 CD's - Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto - Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maag finds the juste milieu 6 Mar 2010
By Ralph Moore TOP 50 REVIEWER
Peter Maag has something of a cult following amongst would-be cognoscenti; he excelled in both the orchestral and operatic fields and is frequently found to be responsible for a particular favourite recording whether it be from the Romantic or Classical repertoire. To select some at random, I for one treasure his versions of Beethoven's Second and Fourth Symphonies, the "Manon" by Massenet and Verdi's "Luisa Miller" - and now also this four disc set (in a slip-case) of the late Mozart symphonies. It is a platitude to observe that it is unfortunate that Maag was never for any length of time at the helm of a truly world-class orchestra but many of his performances manage to transcend that limitation by virtue of his careful preparation and inspirational qualities. This recording was made at a time when Maag had managed to train his musicians to achieve precision without sacrificing sponataneity; thus the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto were by then more than able to do his will and present a reasonable facsimile of a top-quality band. They are not a large group, so every instrument emerges clearly, and it is clear that they are fine, characterful players. What you get is a judicious and grateful compromise between HIP clarity (with all repeats observed) and the sonorousness of modern instruments: the horns blare joyously and the strings have a welcome touch of period astringency. Maag brings such lilt and delicacy to this music and his phrasing is always perfectly judged. I have read complaints about the supposedly "scrawny" string tone of his violins; listen to the "Andante con moto" of no. 39 for a sonic rebuttal of this accusation. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. Mark A. Meldon TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Whilst wholeheartedly agreeing with the erudite Mr Moore's review of these terrific discs, and those of reviewers on amazon.com, I do think that the Furtwängler angle (and that of Ansermet) on the gestation of Peter Maag's approach to Mozart has been a touch overdone. Peter Maag (1919-2001) astonished the musical world when he suffered an epiphany in 1962 and, basically, quit and went off on what might have been called towards the end of that decade the "hippy trail". Involvement with the Greek Orthodox Church, and time at a Buddhist monastery, would, I can only assume, have greatly altered Maag's relationship with music and his conducting career. His career, by the way, was thrown off the tracks by his 1962 decision. Thereafter, Maag tended to work with less well-known ensembles, but brought a great degree of spirituality, in the best sense of that indeterminate word, to his recordings, particularly of Beethoven and Mozart.

In many ways, although for entirely different reasons, I'm reminded of Georg Tintner when considering Maag's few recordings. Tintner's reverence for Bruckner Bruckner: Complete Symphonies has a similar spiritual, and deeply involved, feel to Maag's Mozart recordings. I probably haven't expressed my point particularly well, but I do hope you get my drift.

Not the product of faceless record companies, these late Maag recording bear repeated listening and are highly recommended. The Orchestre di Padova e del Veneto are a touch scrappy here and there, but, really, who cares when they were so well led?
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential recording 10 Jan 2008
By Andrew R. Weiss - Published on Amazon.com
These are outstanding renditions - we could almost call them "re-creations" -- of Mozart's final 10 symphonies by one of the most creative and thoughtful conductors of the last half of the 20th century. They are both big-boned and dramatic, and historically-informed. Spiritually and conceptually, these performances look forward to Beethoven, and not backward to CPE Bach as is more common in historically-informed or original-instrument performances these days. They thus have more in common with some of the earlier generation of German conductors - Walter, Klemperer and Furtwanger in particular. At the same time, Maag has done his research: he uses an appropriately-sized orchestra (smaller, but with modern instruments) and the most recent editions, and takes every repeat.

Much has been made of Maag's connection with Furtwangler. It was Furtwangler who told Maag he should consider being a conductor rather than a pianist; Maag spent 6 months as Furtwangler's assistant; and the two shared strong spiritual and philosophical inclinations (Maag was a theology student before becoming a professional musician and spent 3 years in a Buddhist monastery at the height of his career). However, Maag also served several years as assistant to Ernest Ansermet at L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romand (Maag was Swiss himself), and from him learned the importance of clarity of texture. Whereas Furtwangler's orchestral balances and structural sense emerged from the lower strings (his 'cello section was without rival), Ansermet's balances were more typically "French:" light-textured strings, forward woodwinds, and brilliant (occasionally blaring) brass. Maag made all of these insights his own, and we hear the fruit in this recording: the deep spiritual underpinning, the flexibility with dynamics, the careful molding of phrases and the almost-intuitive understanding of each work's structure which Maag shared with Furtwangler, and the clarity of texture and "French" balances of the orchestra.

To say that all of this serves the music well, as does Maag's unquestionable affinity with Mozart's music, is an understatement. I would go so far as to call these **the** definitive versions of these symphonies. Each is given its due and its own specific character, from the buoyant "Paris" through the exuberant "Haffner" and "Linz" to the stinging 40th and the noble "Jupiter". I'll just point out a couple of my favorite moments: the gorgeously lyrical and surprisingly moving 2nd movement of #34, and the delicious horn accents in the last movement of the same piece; the opening of #39, with its broad sweep and warmth unequalled by anyone except Furtwanger; the courtly finale of the "Linz"; and the almost-menacing woodwind, brass and inner string details in the 1st movement development section of #40. In every piece, Maag sculpts, caresses and even hammers home each note and phrase with unerring rightness. He clearly finds these symphonies (especially #s 37 through 41) to be revolutionary and daring, and he's convinced me as I think he'll convince you.

Now, to the orchestra and the sound. While other reviewers have commented on the orchestra's "scrawny" strings and have assumed that the relatively greater weight given to the woodwinds in particular is a defect in the orchestra itself, I disagree. Maag clearly sees these symphonies as more daring and dramatic than most conductors, and I believe that some of the emphasis on winds and brass is his. The orchestra itself seems fine: the strings are singing, the woodwinds and brass nimble and clear, the orchestra highly responsive to the conductor and capable of detailed nuance. What the Orchestra of Padua and Veneto lacks that world-class orchestras have is that last element of smoothness and polish. A good comparison is with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra (see David Zinman's complete Beethoven symphonies, etc.): the only real differences are that the Tonhalle is a more polished ensemble and was recorded in a more suitable hall. These recordings were made in two different halls and show the effect of hall acoustics on orchestral sound: in the early symphonies (#s31 through 34), recorded at the Pollini Auditorium, the sound is clear, balanced, detailed and warm. The remaining symphonies were recorded at the Modogliani Auditorium, apparently a more resonant (almost cavernous) hall, and the sound is very forward, boomy and cold, with excessive resonance especially noticeable with the trumpets and tympani, which almost drown out the rest of the orchestra. Perhaps Arts will have a good engineer rebalance the sound; it would serve the performances, and Maag's legacy, better.

Maag recorded many of these symphonies earlier with the London Symphony, and those performances, currently available on imports from Australia, have the benefit of a smoother orchestra and sound, but they do not have the benefit of Mozart scholarship past the 1960's, the more natural balances and clarity of a Mozart-sized orchestra, or Maag's more mature insights.

That I give this set 5 stars, even with the sonic shortcomings, should tell you how great I think these performances are and how much I treasure them. Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great performances 11 Jan 2008
By RaleighObserver - Published on Amazon.com
Peter Maag must be one of the most undersung conductors of the 20th century. These are great performances of Mozart's late symphonies -- clear, dynamic, detailed, scholarly and very much alive. The orchestra plays well and seems very responsive to the conductor's wishes. Maag has clear ideas about Mozart that may shock some, as his Mozart is not so much courtly as he is dramatic and daring.

For a more detailed review that says it better than I ever could, check out Jonathan Woolf's review on MusicWeb International at this url:
[...]
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Maag, ODPEV: Mozart Late Syms: Superlative Mozart readings from neglected Swiss conductor 13 Feb 2010
By drdanfee - Published on Amazon.com
This four disc set gives us fine readings of later Mozart symphonies, 31 to 41. I agree with other positive reviewers: This set stands out in a very, very, very crowded field, so far as the commercial recordings catalog goes. I didn't plop it down right on the fav shelves right away, but that delay was only because I wanted to play and play and play these readings. So, this Mozart late symphonies set goes right up high, along with Menuhin and Sinfonia Varsova, Colin Davis and Dresden, Szell and Cleveland, Bruno Walter, and Klemperer.

Let me pull back for a word about the band. Orchestra di Padova e del Venuto is more or less a newish regional band in Italy. I forget exactly what disc was my first early encounter with them; I do recall that I thought they had more musical home work to do than not. The band in that first spin sounded tonal heft but little - very little - discipline. Ensemble was a scramble to the bar lines. Phrasing was just a mess, with some passing hints here and there, of better things to come, if ever, whenever, however. By the time these Mozart recordings were captured (1996), the band players had made notable progress - perhaps thanks to the orchestra-building inspiration of conductor Peter Maag? The instrumental sound had jelled, firstly. Ensemble across strings, woodwinds, brass was tight, alert, and above all, musically purposeful. Phrasing had been improved to minor miracle status. One of the many challenges you get playing Mozart is pretty much constant instrumental exposure. Every player has to be on point, no hiding back in the section rows. Balancing among strings-woodwinds-brass has to be clear, clean, and expressively shaped. Mozart once wrote to his father that his music had something for everybody in his audiences - popular sounding bits, learned techniques, vigor, repose, and above all that wealth of detailed, humanistic emotional genius in whose service we continue to cherish the composer.

The dominant musical impression is that these players and this conductor love Mozart. Simply, Love. Mozart. The bubbling energies they capture in this series often sing out passing associations with the Mozart operas, particularly the da Ponte triad (Cosi fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni). The drama is freshly minted, if such a thing is possible by now, given several centuries of concert hall exposure for these last ten symphonies, especially for the late, great final six. Maag's vigor has enough punch that, actually, I sometimes feared he would go over the Mozart cliffs, and make his readings far too Beethoven-ish to suit. Not so, though Maag in his subtle ways does let us know that Beethoven is coming up, sooner rather than later. What saves Maag's brinkmanship so far as this free vigor goes is probably a matter of dinner discussion (while listening, of course). My hunch is that Maag's creative ways with pace and phrasing keeps our ears firmly focused on hearing his Mozart as Mozart. Maag was justly renowned for his way with Mozart; his depth of insight is fully on display in this set. One can imagine other bands and other conductors doing Mozart, too, but none wiser nor more involved with every single note (adding up to every single passing phrase, adding up to wondrous whole musical paragraphs).

The conductor was a spiritual seeker his whole life. An erstwhile student of philosophy and world religions. I would not gainsay or burlesque any global listener who opined that spiritual lights and depths do come across, beloved and lovely, in these Mozart readings.

Our venue is Auditorium Modigliani in Padua, Italy. The engineers have been diligent and careful about their arts and sciences. The band and the composer come through, resounding. Though this band is smaller, it never sounds too small, partly thanks to Maag and the players (and the engineers?) always bringing out a solid bottom, never muddy.

As it happens, a complete Beethoven symphony set is also available, plus a Mendelssohn symphony set with the Spanish orchestra in Madrid. I'm checking both sets out, after this super Mozart set. Five stars.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maag finds the juste milieu 6 Mar 2010
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Peter Maag has something of a cult following amongst would-be cognoscenti; he excelled in both the orchestral and operatic fields and is frequently found to be responsible for a particular favourite recording whether it be from the Romantic or Classical repertoire. To select some at random, I for one treasure his versions of Beethoven's Second and Fourth Symphonies, the "Manon" by Massenet and Verdi's "Luisa Miller" - and now also this four disc set (in a slip-case) of the late Mozart symphonies. It is a platitude to observe that it is unfortunate that Maag was never for any length of time at the helm of a truly world-class orchestra but many of his performances manage to transcend that limitation by virtue of his careful preparation and inspirational qualities. This recording was made at a time when Maag had managed to train his musicians to achieve precision without sacrificing sponataneity; thus the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto were by then more than able to do his will and present a reasonable facsimile of a top-quality band. They are not a large group, so every instrument emerges clearly, and it is clear that they are fine, characterful players. What you get is a judicious and grateful compromise between HIP clarity (with all repeats observed) and the sonorousness of modern instruments: the horns blare joyously and the strings have a welcome touch of period astringency. Maag brings such lilt and delicacy to this music and his phrasing is always perfectly judged. I have read complaints about the supposedly "scrawny" string tone of his violins; listen to the "Andante con moto" of no. 39 for a sonic rebuttal of this accusation.

Of course, this mastery is the result of Maag, ever the spiritual seeker, having absorbed, assimilated and synthesised the lessons of his two great mentors: Fürtwängler and Ernest Ansermet. From the former, he learned how to maintain weight and structure without heaviness; from the latter, the importance of bringing out lightness and clarity in the melodic and harmonic lines. As a result,he is able to encompass all the requisite moods of these mercurial symphonies, from elegant playfulness to trenchant melancholy. These discs are available at a bargain price and could easily be anyone's first choice for a set of the late masterpieces. In that regard and in their musical qualities, they remind me of the lovely Sony box set of Haydn symphonies and liturgical works, conducted by Bernstein.
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