Mozart Meets Marriner: Serenades (CD review)
I'm going to make a guess here and say that Mozart's Serenade in G, K.525, "Eine kleine Nachtmusik," may be the most familiar music in the world. OK, I'll grant you "Happy Birthday" and "Jingle Bells" are popular, too. Certainly, the "Little Night Music" Serenade is one of Mozart's most familiar tunes. Meaning it's been recorded by everyone everywhere, and you can find it done up by full modern orchestras, period bands, chamber ensembles, and probably singing reindeer. But you won't find it done up any better than by Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on this reissued Philips recording.
Marriner was never an extremist, so you'll find this performance pretty much middle-of-the-road, which is probably the way most of us want it. There is always room for a new, invigorating reading by a new gung-ho group, but for a first choice in this repertoire, it's best to play it safe. That would be Marriner, Boskovsky, and maybe I Musici. Yes, Marriner and the Academy did the piece for EMI in an even more refined manner, but here he is as relaxed and joyful as he can be. And accompanying the "Nachtmusik" are the Serenade in D, K.239, "Serenata notturna," and the Serenade in D, K.320, "Posthorn." They are equally well played and well presented.
Given that this is a budget-priced collection, the sound is remarkably good. The "Nachtmusik" has a tad more ambient bloom to it than the other two works, but it never distracts from the music. If you are looking for ultimate sound reproduction, FIM has remastered the "Serenata notturna" in XRCD processing, and there you will find it even smoother, more transparent, and more dynamic. But you'll also pay four times the price for it. This Philips set is hard to beat, dollar for dollar.
The only minor cavil I would have is the Philips labeling. First, on the back of the jewel box, they mark the four-movement "Nachtmusik" as 1-3, taking up with 5-7 for the "Serenata notturna." What happened to #4? Then, on the back of the booklet insert, they claim a production date of 1987 for the "Nachtmusik" and "Serenata," when clearly the "Serenata," at least, came from a 1967 Argo release. Oh, well, it's the music that matters, not the fine print.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.