Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik (CD review)

Also, Serenata notturna; Lodron Night Music No. 1. Petter Sundkvist, Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Naxos 8.557023.

How can anyone put the knock on Mozart, especially in something so familiar and so deservedly popular as his Serenade No. 13 in G major, K. 525, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), no matter what the orchestra or record company? But when the performance and sound come up as felicitously as these do, and at so low a price, there's nothing to do but sing the disc's praises.

Petter Sundkvist and his Swedish Chamber Orchestra give us a lovely, relaxed interpretation of Nachtmusik that makes a thankful contrast to many of the more hard-driven readings we've had in the last couple of decades, especially from the period-instruments crowd. The opening Allegro sets a proper tone by not trying to catch our attention as an overture might; and it's followed by the loveliest of Romances, tender and tranquil without ever being overly brooding, sentimental, or cloying. The Minuetto is sprightly, and the Finale is energetic. What more could we want from this string piece? Well, to answer my own question, perhaps Sundkvist could have used a touch more sparkle or wit, in the manner of Willi Boskovsky and the Vienna Mozart Ensemble on Decca, which is still my touchstone for this work. But Boskovsky, while more incisive, is less easygoing, and, frankly, Sundkvist's casual charm goes a long way with me.

Of the two accompanying works, I thought the Serenade No. 6 in D major, K. 239, Serenata notturna, a bit too bass heavy in the timpani to do full justice to the work's allures; but except for some equally heavy and somewhat clouded horns in the hunting sections of the Divertimento No. 10 in F major, K. 247, Lodron Night Music, this final piece comes off almost as well as the Nachtmusik.

The sound the Naxos engineers provide is as good as anything you'll find at the price. It spreads out nicely across the front speakers, provides decent definition everywhere but in the aforementioned timpani and horns, and exhibits a remarkably realistic resonant glow, a hint of reverberation that gives the performances a most realistic feel. In all, this album is a hands-down easy recommendation.


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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