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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Youth Symphonies
Symphony in E-Flat, K16 (Symphony No.1) (1764) [13:20]
Five Contredanses, K609/2 (1787/91) [1:00]
Symphony in D, K19 (Symphony No.4) (1764) [9:15]
Five Contredanses, K609/3 [1:38]
Symphony in F, KAnh.223/19a (1765) [12:45]
Five Contredanses, K609/1 [1:40]
Symphony in B-Flat, K22 (Symphony No.5) (1765) [6:52]
Five Contredanses, K609/4 [2:38]
Symphony in G, KAnh.221/45a (Symphony No.7a) (1766/7) [13:29]
Five Contredanses, K609/5 [2:01]
Freiburger Barockorchester/Gottfried von der Goltz
rec. Freiburg, 11-17 February 2019. DDD.
APARTÉ AP215 [64:38]

Four early symphonies in major keys from Mozart’s youth are here interspersed with his five contredanses, K609, from late in his life.  We have had other such collections in the past, notably from Sir Neville Marriner, whose four quad-stereo recordings of the youth symphonies with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields from the 1970s have been reissued in a 4-SACD set by Pentatone (PTC5186462 – review – also available separately). 

Karl Böhm’s many fans – count me among them – should investigate the 10-CD DG set of his recordings of all the Mozart symphonies (4776134, around £46, but currently on offer for £27.90).  For a real bargain there’s the complete Jaap ter Linden Mozart symphonies with the Mozart Akademie Amsterdam (Brilliant 94295: Recording of the Month – review).  That costs around £29 but is currently on offer for £20.95; around £16 as a lossless download, with booklet.

As I warned in my review of the ter Linden set, it’s futile to look for masterpieces among these juvenile works, but that doesn’t prevent us from enjoying them.  They are all well worth hearing in the right hands, and ter Liden does them to a ‘t’; there’s no sense of listening fatigue after CD1 of that set, containing K16, K19, K19a, K22, K43 and K45. 

If anything, I enjoyed the new Freiburg recording even more; I especially liked the way in which the youth symphonies were offset with the five contredanses, from Mozart’s last years but still as full of the youthful excitement and vivacity which marks the symphonies.  Under Gottfried von der Goltz’s guiding hand, too, the Freiburg orchestra offer performances as adept as those of their opposite numbers in Amsterdam at bringing out the very best in the symphonies – and they really let themselves go in the dances.  At times, you might even think that you were listening to father Leopold’s Cassation in G – the one that used to be called Haydn’s ‘Toy Symphony’.

Many years ago, Harry Blech played one of Mozart’s dances with his London Mozart Players as the encore at a concert in the Royal Festival Hall.  On the way out, someone asked me what the encore had been and I replied that I thought it was one of the German Dances.  Oh no, I was told, Mozart never wrote anything like that, implying that such things were too down-market.  Well, he did, and here is some of that enjoyable repertoire.

Willy Boskovsky made a pretty good fist of Mozart’s dance music (Complete Dances and Marches, 4832024, 6 hours, download only; Dances of Old Vienna, Decca Eloquence 4826152, 2 CDs, budget price – review).  They are only an adjunct to the symphonies on Aparté, but the performances rival even Boskovsky at his foot-tapping best.

In fact, there is a direct line of descent from Haydn’s and Mozart’s dance music to that of the Strauss family, traceable via Schubert and Lanner.  It’s well illustrated on that Eloquence set and on another Boskovsky recording, this time with his own Boskovsky Ensemble on Dances of Old Vienna; The Old Year’s Concert (Alto ALC1237: Recording of the Month – review).

There’s one other, perhaps surprising, name in that line, Beethoven.  Not only did he compose a ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus, which features a more danceable version of his Eroica theme, some of his dance music also features on the Eloquence collection.  As I was closing this review, I noticed that a new recording of his Minuets, WoO7/1-12, WoO9/1-6 and WoO10/1-6, has appeared from Warner Classics (9029531986 [58:10]).  The music, as performed by the Philharmonia Hungarica and Hans Ludwig Hirsch, sounds rather heavier than Mozart’s dances as presented by the Freiburg team, but the result remains attractive.  (The WoO numbers signify unpublished works.)

With good recording to match the enticing performances, the new Aparté is a very enjoyable release.  Go for it first and, perhaps, for the Warner Beethoven next.  Maybe now the Freiburg performers, who already have several fine Mozart recordings to their credit, on Harmonia Mundi and Naïve, will give us more of his early output.  And what about his serenades and divertimenti?

I’m very grateful to Aparté for including in the booklet new information about Mozart’s longevity; his dates are listed there as 1756-1991.  I wonder why I hadn’t heard of this amazing research; at least, it would put to bed the theory that he was poisoned by Salieri!  That faux pas apart – maybe it’s applicable to the digital version only, and will have been corrected for the CD – the notes offer useful information about the music and the circumstances of its composition.  As is so often the case, I advise shopping around for this CD; the pre-release prices vary considerably.

Brian Wilson

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