on 16 February 2014
The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra is to my ears the most fully rounded exciting period instrument ensemble on record. They seem to have a naturally bouyant approach which entirely matches this music of youthful exuberance - with the odd wistful moment. In one word they play with eagerness. Ton Koopman partners them with tempi that match the flow - long breaths in the quiet middle movements - striding get up and go in the outer movements. Exquisite shaping of melodies with which this music abounds. Unlike some reviewers of their performances I do not find their playing or tempi in the slow and fast movements - if one could even use these crude terms - exaggerated. I prefer the way they accent and highlight the music. It is superb musical brushwork. They play to the young Mozart's strengths and not play early works reflected in his mature style - which is what always happens. Over-sophisticated readings of basically gay and frolicking music. That's boring!
The recorded sound is vivid with a good volume level. You will want to turn it up...early Mozart swings!
Get the set of Divertimenti too..just as good if not better.
Why am I writing this review? Just heard Klemperer in 29 on BBC Radio 3, the announcer introducing it as dancing along, uncharacteristic of our notions of Klemperer's stately tempi. Excuse me Sir! Klemperer is about as lively in this work as a two stroke engine at Le Mans. Polite and graceful, he surely is...but for wit, charm and bon vivant, leave this on the shelf of yesteryear and get Koopman.
On that note you will not find better in these works anywhere else, though the later symphonies in their hands are a mixed bag, and they sometimes unravel in the face of the complexity of the music. Anyway, I much prefer a standard chamber orchestra in these with razor sharp ensemble on modern instruments. Try the reference recordings of Krips on Philips for anything past No 33.
But for cheap as chips this Koopman Amsterdam disc originally released on Erato is still the best in the earlier symphonies and divertimenti. Get the whole series on about four Erato CDs. Their disc of the Divertimenti is, again despite some sniffy misleading reviews, a fantastic performance. Why listen to over-seasoned accounts when you can have something immediate and fresh like this? Happy listening!
PS Don't be put off by the exceedingly drab packaging "cover art" -strictly from the Ministry of Grey like many Apex budget reissues - the music inside is wonderfully colourful. It is worth, if you are a self respecting collector, to get the original ERATO releases perhaps on Ebay, they are much nicer products.