I have to concur with those previous reviewers who found this disc less than exhilarating. The words which occurred most readily to me while listening were "perfunctory" and "uninspired". I certainly have no objection to brisk tempi and reduced forces but if I want to hear Mozart performed in period style without the concomitant drawbacks of whiney tone, I go straight to Peter Maag's complete set with the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, who seem to me to combine all the virtues of a leaner, less pseudo-Romantic approach with the interpretative insights of a seasoned conductor who wasn't wedded to literalism. I hear virtually nothing of affection or indeed engagement with the music in Abbado's brusque and zingy delivery; tender phrases go for naught; by and large he jogs through the music unfeelingly.
Nor is the sound much to get excited about: it is ploggy and without edge so that timpani thwacks go for little and I am put in mind of the kind of soupiness too often associated with "old-fashioned" performances using traditionally large symphony orchestras. The aural picture is oddly incongruous with vibrato-less playing. Another incongruity is how Abbado manages to set such fast tempi while still sounding listless; there is little spring, wit or life in his "interpretations" - such as they are. Time and again direct comparison with Maag reveals the latter to have something individual to say about the music where Abbado blithely ploughs on.
I certainly don't dislike these bland performances as much as some previous reviewers but I am equally disinclined to throw in my lot with those who give five stars. There is much more in the way of expressive and arresting recordings to be had.
Ok, so Abbado is now accredited to hobble around with the period practice wolf-pack - does that mean he has anything to say that will avert stupor on our part? After all his recent excursions in Mozart, Die Zauberflote aside, have been linked to Mad Cow disease, mange and low sperm counts.
Before I started to listen to this disc, the in-house poltergeist ran amok in the study. I ran in to find Emily Anderson's translations of Mozart's letters on the ground. It opened to 11 April 1781 where the composer writes, "Why, it was at his house that we went through my symphony for the second time. I forget to tell you the other day that at the concert the symphony went magnifique and had the greatest success. There were forty violins, the wind-instruments were all doubled, there were ten violas, ten double basses, eight cellos and six bassoons."
Mmmmmmh. Now with this in mind, what would Mozart say of this ad hoc, eponymous band of scratchers with a sassy website? Answer: I don't know; I suspect it would be measurable in litres and be kaleidoscopic to boot.
To the interpretations themselves. The Metternich in me says this: how does anyone justify a Carl Lewis-inspired sprint in the slow introduction to the E Flat. It's no longer a sacrilege: it's just sad. Perhaps I need to brush up on my Italian because I suspect that the word `adagio' in lupine circles is translated as `speedy'. Elsewhere, the slow movement of K 550 inspired Haydn, no less, when he came to Winter in the Seasons , ("Your brief spring has lost its bloom, your summer strength is exhausted") but you would never guess it on this performance: it sounds like a tribute to Lassie. The development section of K 550's last movement is one of the glories - and terrors - of Western Civilisation. The charge that Stravinsky levelled against Karajan re his 1964 Rite of Spring is applicable here: it too is a `pet savage rather than a real one'. Oh, but it is very spruce and well articulated.
What a difference there is between animation and life. I still maintain that Abbado flatlined back at 1'30" in the Masonic Funeral Music ( Mozart: Symphony 25 & 31; Masonic Funeral Music; Posthorn Sym. recorded in March 1992). Bereft of star conductors, DG went the El-Cid option with the assistance of bio-mechanics and air-fresheners.
If you want your Mozart to be sallow, superficial, fidgety, and a ninety seven pounding weakling whom Charles Atlas should accost, this performance is for you. Me, I have never been a fan of being short-changed.