Mozart: Overtures (CD review)

Sir Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. EMI 7243 5 85060 2.

Time is a funny thing. When you’re a kid, you want it to go by in a hurry so you can grow up fast.  When you’re an adult, you’d prefer it slowed down...way, way down. I got to thinking about time when I saw that EMI had re-released Marriner’s Mozart Overtures in their budget-label Encore series.

It seems like only yesterday, 1982, when Marriner first released these performances, and they went straight to the top of my personal favorites. They were the best I had heard, and at the moment they’re still among the best we’ve got. To be able to buy them new for less than the cost of the old full-price LP seems a bargain, indeed.

The collection includes nine overtures: The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, La clemenza di Tito, Lucio Silla, The Abduction from the Seraglio, Don Giovanni, Idomeneo, Cosi fan tutte, and Der Schauspieldirektor. The thing about them is that there is so little one needs to say to describe them. They are not scorching, exciting, tranquil, relaxed, or radiant. They simply “are.” They simply are the way they should be, just as we always imagine this music to sound. Of course, Marriner is always elegant, and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields is always impeccable; that goes without saying. Otherwise, the performances are spot on, neither hurried nor lax, but glowing when they should be, witty when they should be, inspiring when they should be. It’s no wonder the Saul Zaentz Company chose Marriner to conduct the music for Milos Forman’s Oscar-winning Mozart movie Amadeus a few years later.

EMI’s sound is very early digital, but it was never hard or edgy as some early digital recordings could be. What’s more, the new mastering, which the folks at EMI do not indicate they updated in any way, is as convincing and alive as the old full-price disc. In any case, it’s good to hear this budget release sounds just as clean as the older edition. Understandably, there is little deep bass involved with Mozart, but there is a natural tonal balance, a wide stereo spread, a realistically ambient bloom, and a reasonable orchestral depth, and a modest transparency. It makes for a very fine reissue.


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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