Mozart: Flute and Oboe Concertos (CD review)

Also, Symphony No. 32. Irena Grafenauer, flute; Francois Leleux, oboe; Gunter Wand; Sir Colin Davis, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. BR Klassik 900710.

The BR Klassik label continues to provide good value with its Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra discs, this one a 2010 release of older recorded material. We get three different Mozart pieces, all written around the same time, 1777-79; two splendid soloists; two star conductors; and one outstanding orchestra.

The program begins with Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major, KV 313, written in 1778. The Concerto itself is the epitome of charm, grace, and delight, of course. The soloist, Irena Grafenauer, and conductor, Gunter Wand, are the epitomes of refinement and eloquence, so they work hand in hand with the music, producing a radiant performance. Over the years, a few critics have continued to believe that Mozart disliked the flute and resented having to compose music for it. If so, it certainly doesn't show in his one-and-only concerto for the instrument, especially as felicitously as Grafenauer and Wand play it, the flute lightly dancing throughout. This is old-school Mozart, to be sure, but gracious and engaging in the extreme.

Mozart wrote his Oboe Concerto in C major, KV 314, in 1777, a transcription of which he tried to pass off a year later under the guise of a new flute concerto, and you will still find it sometimes listed as such. In any case, the Oboe and Flute Concertos share much in common with one another, both light and airy, with lovely, songlike, cantabile-based mid sections and spirited conclusions. Sir Colin Davis is a bit more lively in his direction than Gunter Wand, and the listener will find considerable bounce in his tempos. Likewise, oboist Francois Leleux's playing seems more virtuosic, more gymnastic, than Ms. Grafenauer's flute playing, though not necessarily more polished or more enjoyable.

The album ends with Mozart's Symphony No. 32, a very brief and unusual single-movement work, about eight-and-a-half minutes long under Sir Colin Davis. Nevertheless, the single Allegro spiritoso contains a traditional slow segment about halfway through, so it is, in fact, like a mini symphony. Davis offers an energetic, scintillating reading that, in any case, never appears unduly rushed.

In terms of sound, we get recordings spanning a twenty-year period. The Flute Concerto derives from a 1981 recording, and it is smooth and natural, slightly close-up, with a good ambient air, if not a lot of sparkle. The Oboe Concerto is the newest of the lot, recorded live in 2001. It sounds more closely miked than the Flute Concerto, somewhat wider in stereo spread and more open.  However, it is not necessarily more realistic, and there is a little less orchestra depth and some occasional audience noise involved. The Symphony No. 32 comes from 1985, also recorded live, and sounding a bit more dynamic than the others, though with perhaps a touch more forwardness in the upper midrange. None of these recordings can lay claim to audiophile status, but they are satisfying in their own ways.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa