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