Mozart: Serenade No. 3 in D Major (CD review)
The more I hear from Linn Records, the more I like. It's especially welcome, then, that they are reissuing some of their best older material, although the material isn't all that old, recorded about seven or eight years ago. This album of one serenade and several shorter works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) shows off the skills of Maestro Alexander Janiczek, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and the Linn recording team.
The major thread that ties the album together is that it's all music Mozart wrote during his early years living at his parents' home in Salzburg. In 1781 he moved to Vienna where he wrote his more mature and often more lucrative works. These earlier pieces Mozart wrote mainly as background music for dinners, parties, celebrations, and the like, which seems a shame at the time but works out pretty well for us today.
The main selection on the program is Mozart's Serenade No. 3 in D Major, one of half a dozen serenades he wrote for full orchestra, along with several more serenades for winds, quartet, and the like. No. 3, which the composer wrote in 1773 while still in his teens, is probably the first serenade he wrote, and like many of the others, he wrote it for a celebratory occasion, in this case end-of-the-year celebrations for the University, where the orchestra would play it twice to an audience of students and professors. They would pair each presentation with a March, in this case K. 189, played en route to the venues.
Anyway, the Serenade No. 3 comprises seven movements, starting with an Allegro assai, then an Andante, Allegro, Menuetto & Trio, Andante grazioso, another Menuetto & Trio, and ending with an Adagio, Allegro assai. Pretty much a varied roster of fast and slow movements. The Serenade No. 3 is, as I said, a youthful work, and Maestro Janiczek finds that youthful appeal in it. He presents each movement with an engaging enthusiasm, yet he never resorts to ultrafast tempos or unusual phrasing to maintain our attention. He simply keeps the allegros moving at a healthy but not breathless pace and the andantes moderately slow and steady, as they should be.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra are a joy to hear, playing with a delightful, graceful élan. And Janiczek takes the solo violin parts himself, imparting to them the same intense yet seemingly effortless energy he puts into his conducting. They make for an enjoyable combination.
The same ebullient charm that Janicezk and company show in the Serenade they exhibit in the accompanying shorter works. The little Rondo in C Major, K. 373 is particularly noteworthy in its execution. Janicezk keeps the music elegant and refined yet brilliantly energetic, too.
While none of the selections may be "great" music or even great Mozart, it's a total pleasure in its own right, lightweight or not. The performances are a must for any Mozart fan, and the recording a joy for the audiophile.
Producer Philip Hobbs and engineer Calum Malcolm recorded the music at Greyfair's Kirk, Edinburgh, UK in June 2006. The sound is both robust and natural. In other words, it appears just distant enough to allow for hall reflections to play a part in the realism of the occasion yet not so far away that it obscures or clouds detail. The sound is, in fact, wonderfully alive and transparent, with excellent body and definition. Highs shimmer and glow, the midrange exhibits commendable clarity, and the lows are more than adequate for the music. Orchestral depth, instrument transient response, and overall dynamics sound equally impressive. It's exemplary sound and nothing less than we might expect from a company that has been making audiophile equipment for years.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
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.