Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 40 and 41 (CD review)

Also, Final Ballet from Idomeneo. Marc Minkowski, Les Musiciens du Louvre. Archiv Production B0006506-02.

Anyone wishing to own a recording of Mozart's final two symphonies played on period instruments before a live audience could do worse than Marc Minkowski's performances with the Musicians of the Louvre.

As for the hyperbole surrounding the cover-jacket pronouncements, I have my doubts. I quote:  "Mozart's late G minor Symphony has rarely had an interpretation so revolutionary." And "Two favorite symphonies as you've never heard them before." Well, if by "revolutionary" the writer means "fast," I'd agree. And insofar as the part about "as you've never heard them before" goes, I would have to say that's true: I had never heard Minkowski perform them before.

Yes, the readings are smooth and passionate and lovingly played. No, they are not particularly "revolutionary." Minkowski does take them at mostly a brisk tempo, however, with a good deal of gusto from the tympanist playing in the "Jupiter." There are also what have to be the longest breaks between movements I've ever heard on a recording or in a concert hall, some ten-to-fifteen second breaks, in fact. That was the only annoying part of the proceedings.

As far as the sound is concerned, it's fine, especially considering its live origins. There is no audience noise, and unless I had read the cover blurb stating that it was "Recorded live at the MC2: Grenoble," I would not have guessed. Thankfully, there is no applause involved. However, the sound is a trifle dull unless you turn it up a bit. Even then, it is not very transparent or dimensional, a thin veil shrouding a lot of the high end. But, as I say, the tympanist does have his way with things, banging away full throttle and creating quite a sensation.

Adapted from a review the author originally published in the $ensible Sound magazine.

JJP

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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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa