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4.7 out of 5 stars24
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 7 September 2008
It is the mark of a fine conductor that s/he treat Mozart and Haydn symphonies with he same reverence as, say, Beethoven or Bruckner. In his last four symphonies Mozart establishes a standard for symphonic writing that later composers, Beethoven included, were to respond to and build on. Mackerras has long been a Mozartian par excellence, although his earlier recordings of these symphonies are not, in this reviewer's opinion, of the best. These new recordings with the SCO certainly are.

Mackerras adopts a modern approach to these works that is informed by 'period instrument' performances, while still allowing the sort of spaciousness one tends to find in the performances of more 'old school' conductors - Bohm and Bernstein, for example, are both worth hearing in this repertoire, but Mackerras has the edge on both; he is somehow that bit more 'Mozartian'. The SCO is outstanding as always, responding stylishly and gracefully to Mackerras's meticulous detail.

I've been looking for some time for a modern instrument recording of these works that can stand repeated listening and I found it in these; in fact, for me, Mackerras offers the most rounded and consistently pleasing account of these great works and I would recommend them whole-heartedly.
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on 8 March 2008
Sir Charles's performances recorded here cover the last four symphonies by Mozart, and these are very good indeed in their category of hybrid (mixture of modern and period (brass) instruments) historically informed performances. Phrasings are articulate and smooth at the same time and textures are utterly clear if not quite as colourful as in all-period instruments recordings. Most importantly, taking all repeats, Sir Charles has successfully kept his listeners in view both these symphonies overall monumental dimensions and the unique finess and beauty in each of their numerous details. SCO plays gloriously and Linn's engineering is equally outstanding. All lovers of Mozart symphonies should take a listen at this.
0Comment46 of 49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This set of the last Mozart symphonies was recorded in 2007. It is very complete and very large scale for such a chamber version. These two concepts are a little at odds with themselves - that is large scale on the one hand and chamber orchestra, implying smaller scaled, on the other.

This is Mackerras' third survey of these symphonies and I have heard them all. The first recordings were with the LPO, relatively drily recorded, and preceding his later thoughts about using a smaller chamber orchestra. The second set with the Prague orchestra by contrast had a tendency to sound over resonant and therefore a little bloated. This recording from Scotland achieves the greatest clarity with the right level of bloom for a modern chamber orchestra working at full strength. There is still a sense of inflated chamber orchestra but not to the extent of the Prague set, thus achieving a more appropriate sense of scale compared to the traditional full orchestra compared with the LPO recordings.

Throughout these performances Mackerras shows a clear awareness or current period practice and therefore he adopts tempi which are constantly kept lively. This is coupled with the idea that every single repeat should be observed. This is fine as regards the exposition repeats where there is good reason to hear Mozart's compositional ideas reinforced. However, repeats of the development sections of movements is a relatively unusual decision as it seems somewhat unnecessary dramatically. It's a bit like reading a thriller novel or watching a film where the first part is dealt with in flashback, which related to the exposition being repeated. However, reading or watching the chase scenes to the final conclusion of the story then repeating that section identically would not be a good idea in a book or a film and arguably has the same effect in music.

One thing that Mackerras cannot achieve, even with period awareness, is the actual period sound where the internal balances of the orchestra are radically changed to more evenly match the strings and the woodwind. This aids the idea of dialogue which simply occurs naturally as a result of the balance within the orchestra. The other important consideration is that the tonal effects of the period instruments is lost by using modern instruments. Woodwind become less rustic, brass become more over-bearing and strings become too smooth. Timpani put on a degree of sonic portliness. These comments are all to be taken as relative remarks.

This set is presumably designed to give a modern twist to a period approach and thus appeal to those who know that the big band approach is wrong but who still resist the period instruments. This can be a fear of intonation problems which certainly used to be very severe coupled with acerbic string tone. However all of that is a thing of the past as Pinnock clearly shows in his complete survey of the symphonies. there are now numerous other examples of period orchestras who play with the same accuracy and control over tone as a modern group such as this Scottish orchestra.

I would suggest that this is still a very fine set and certainly the finest of the three sets made by Mackerras. As such it has received much praise and I would agree with that. However, the Pinnock set has also received tremendous praise and has the advantage of going the whole way as a period performance, except in the matter of repeats, and that brings its own set of additional rewards.

So in conclusion I would suggest that this set by Mackerras is worthy of the praise that it has received and as such deserves serious consideration as a potential purchase. However, Pinnock offers an alternative set of all the symphonies as a fully period experience and that too is well worth considering.
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on 5 September 2012
I now own both SACD issues of Sir Charles Mackerras conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra performing Mozart's last, but greatest symphonies. The two double SACD's contain Symphonies 29, 31, 32, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40 & 41. These are exceptional recordings and prove once again what a brilliant format DSD (SACD) could be in the right hands. They are an absolute pleasure to listen to, especially on a good audio system, while each booklet provides very interesting insight into the historic significance and Mozart's inspiration and motivation for each of these symphonies.
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on 29 August 2012
For my taste these symphonies are the best of Mozart (along with The Magic Flute opera). Sir Charles MacKerras was a noted conductor of Mozart and produces beautiful performances on this album. It is very sad to learn that he has since passed away, which will make this album even more of a treasure.
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on 21 May 2011
If you are new to classical music and do not yet have these Mozart symphonies on CD or if you already have another set, just go ahead and treat yourself to these performances !!
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on 22 May 2009
I was delighted to receive this set within 5 days of ordering it.
The performances, under Sir Charles Mackerras,are astonishingly good, often thrilling, and the quality of the recorded sound is awesome, once you have found the correct adjustment of tone controls, the treble setting needing to be low.
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on 6 June 2014
Best performance of Mozart symphonies I've heard so far, and I have heard many of them... Splendid sound quality as well.
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on 12 April 2008
I have been searching for the definitive recording of these the most famous of all of his symphonies and I think I've found it in this offering from Linn, the performance by the Scottish chamber orchestra it has to be said is absolutely superb under Sir Charles' baton, every instrument is clearly heard individually, up until now all I've heard of these symphonies are some hissy 1960's recordings on bargain CD offerings, and a recording of an ECO / Jeffrey Tate performance from 1985 as part of a Mozart 50 cd collector's edition which I made the mistake of purchasing which I'm now going to ditch. If Mackerras can come up with the goods by recording the earlier symphonies I will gladly part with plastic to purchase these as well, Mozart will change your life. 10/10.
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on 15 March 2008
I really can't add anything more to these reviews except to say that - if you are new to classical music and don't know what to listen to first - then these symphonies, crammed with sublime tunes and melodies, and beautifully played make the ideal place to start. Transform your life and listen to Mozart.
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