Also, March; Rondo in C Major; Adagio in E Major; Rondo Concertante in B-flat Major; Divertimento in E-flat Major. Alexander Janiczek, director and violin; Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Linn Records Echo BKD 287.
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:
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer
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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer
For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.
For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst
I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.
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. --John J. Puccio
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