Mozart: Serenata notturna (CD review)

Also, Notturno in D major; Overture to Lucio Silla; Four interludes from Thamos; Symphony No. 32; Six German Dances. Peter Maag, London Symphony Orchestra. Decca Legends 289 466 500-2.

Tighten your belts because this one will charm your pants off.

Decca Legends give us a Mozart collection from 1959 to delight any music fan. The disc starts with the Notturno in D major for four orchestras, the effects of the four small groups showing up nicely in stereo. The first movement is especially appealing with the various sections of instruments presenting a convincing echo effect. However, the Serenata notturna in D major that follows is the highlight of the disc. It is at once elegant and refined, joyous and frothy.

Peter Maag bubbles over with the spirit of Sir Thomas Beecham at his best. We can almost see the boyish scamp Mozart gleefully leading the ensemble, and the London Symphony respond to him splendidly.

Peter Maag
Following the two nocturnes, which in Mozart's day were light works intended for performance in the evening, the Overture to Lucio Sill and the four Interludes from Thamos, King of Egypt, are quite a change of pace, much heavier and more intense. The Symphony No. 32 is one of Mozart's shortest symphonies, maybe the shortest at little more than ten minutes. It comprises a single, three-part movement, much more like an overture than a true symphony. The album concludes with six German Dances, all of them festive, exuberant affairs, the most famous of which is the familiar "Sleigh Ride." Like all the pieces on the agenda, Maestro Maag performed the dances sweetly and exquisitely.

Decca recorded the first items in Walthamstow Assembly Hall, and they have a smooth, mellow sound, with a flattering ambiance. They recorded the last two items, the Symphony and German Dances, in Kingsway Hall, and these items offer a sharper, more detailed image. I would have liked a combination of the best elements of both acoustic styles, but they make an attractively contrasting pair. This is especially the case as Decca remastered them in their 96Hz/24-bit technology, and there is minimal background noise throughout the program.

One final note: the Decca engineers manage to squeeze an amazing eighty minutes and forty-eight seconds of stereo music onto the CD, one of the longest I have ever reviewed. At mid-price (or used), one cannot argue with the disc's value.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

1 comment:

  1. Listening to this brief Serenata notturna is marvel, lyrical, transferring richness in the expressive melodic sound while so very precise in intonation. The violins give a unique tone of velvety beauty!


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.

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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